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Full text of "Startling Stories"

THE LAST DAYS OF 
SHANDAKOR 



ru 



\ By LEIGH BRACKETT 

\ TAME ME THIS BEAST 

A By ROBERT MOORE WILLIAMS 



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THE BEST IN SC I E NT! FICT I O N 



Startling 
Stories , 



Two Complete Novelets 
THE LAST DAYS OF SHANDAKOR Leigh Beckett 4 

An Earthmsn discovers that both love and tragedy live on in a 
long-dead city of Ancient Mars which denies death's reality. 

BIRTHPLACE OF CREATION Edmcr,d Hamilton 46 

Curt Newton and the Futuremen are called on to protect the 
cosmos from the destructive activity of a dangerous madman. 



Short Stones 
THE [NTRUDER Oliver Sa an 25 

What's it like to have an exact duplicate of yourself show up? 

TAME ME THIS BEAST Robert Moore Williams 37 

Professor Shaler thought his experiment would free humanity. 

Feature 
HOWS YOUR VOLTAGE? Science Facts 65 



, ::■ I in ; .it '■'. (■■>-■ i 




novelet by LEIGH BSIACKITT 



|~E CAME alone into the wine- 
shop, wrapped in a dark red 

c l oa k, with the cowl drawn 

over his head. He stood for a moment 
by the doorway and one of the slim 
dark predatory women who live in those 
places went to him, with a silvery chim- 
ing from the little bells that were al- 
most all she wore. 

I saw her smile up at him. And then, 
suddenly, the smile became fixed and 



something happened to her eyes. She 
wa3 no longer looking at the cloaked 
man but through him. In the oddest 
fashion — it was as though he had be- 
come invisible. 

She went by him. Whether she passed 
some word along or not I couldn't tell 
but an empty space widened around the 
stranger. And no one looked at him. 
They did not avoid looking at him. They 
simply refused to see him. 




An Earthman finds iove and tragedy in a 
fong-dead city of ancient Mars that denies death 



THE LAST DAYS OF 

Shandakor 



He began to walk slowly across the 
crowded room. He was very tall and he 
moved with a fluid, powerful grace that 
was beautiful to watch. People drifted 
out of his way, not seeming to, but doing 
it. The air was thick with nameless 
smells, shrill with the laughter of 
women. 

Two tall barbarians, far gone in wine, 
were carrying on some intertribal feud 
and the yelling crowd had made room 
for them to fight. There was a silver 
pipe and a drum and a double-banked 
harp making old wild music. Lithe 
brown bodies leaped and whirled 
through the laughter and the shouting 
and the smoke. 

The stranger walked through all this, 
alone, untouched, unseen. He passed 
close to where I sat. Perhaps because I, 
of all the people in that place, not only 
saw him but stared at him, he gave me 
a glance of black eyes from under the 
shadow of his cowl — eyes like blown 
coals, bright with suffering and rage. 

I caught only a glimpse of his muffled 



face. The merest glimpse— but that was 
enough. Why did he have to show his 
face to me in that win-e-shop in Barra- 
kcsk? 

He passed on. There was no space is 
the shadowy corner where he went but 
space was made, a circle of it, a moat 
between the stranger and the crowd. He 
sat down. I saw him lay a coin on the 
outer edge of the table. Presently a 
serving wench came up, picked up the 
coin and set down a cup of wine. But it 
was as if she waited on an empty table. 

I turned to Kardak, my head drover, 
a Shumii with massive shoulders and 
uncut hair braided in an intricate tribal 
knot. "What's all that about ?" I asked. 

Kardak shrugged. "Who knows?" 
He started to rise. "Come, JonEoss, 
It is time we got back to the serai." 

"We're not leaving for hours yet. And 
don't lie to me, I've been on Mars a long 
time. What is that man? Where does 
he come from?" 

Barrakesh is the gateway "between 
north and south. Long ago, when there 



ij STARTLING 

were oceans in equatorial and southern 

Mara, when'Yalkis and Jekkara were 
proud seats of empire and not thieves' 
dens, here mi tlie edge of the northern 
Drylands the great caravans had come 
and gone In Barrakesh for a thousand 
thousand years. It is a place of strang- 
ers. 

In the time-eaten streets of rock you 
Fee tall Xeshi hillmen, nomads from the 
high plains of Upper Shun, lean dark 
men from the south who barter away 
the loot of forgotten tombs and temples, 
cosmopolitan sophisticates up from 
Kahora and the trade cities, where 
there are spaceports and all the ap- 
purtenances of modern civilization. 

The red-cluaked stranger was none of 
these. 

A GLIMPSE of a face— I am a plane- 
tary anthropologist. I was sup- 
posed to be charting Martian ethnology 
and I was doing it on a fellowship grant 
I had wangled from a Terran university 
too ignorant to know that the vastness 
of Martian history makes such a proj- 
'■ect hopeless. 

I was in Barrakesh, gathering an out- 
fit preparatory to a years study of the 
tribes of Upper Shun. And suddenly 
there had passed close by me a man with 
golden skin and un-Martian black eyes 
and a facia! structure that belonged to 
no race I knew. I have seen the carven 
faces of fauns that were a little like it. 
Kardak said again, "It is time to go, 
JonRoss !" 

I looked at the stranger, drinking his 
wine in silence and alone. "Very well, 
I'll ask him." 

Kardak sighed. "Earthmen," he said, 
"are not given much to wisdom." He 
turned and left me. 

I crossed the room and stood beside 
the stranger. In the old courteous High 
Martian they speak in all the Low-Canal 
towns T asked permission to sit. 

Those raging, suffering eyes met 
mine. There was hatred in them, and 
scorn, and shame. "What breed of 
human are yon'** 



STORIES 

"I am an Earthman." 
He said the name over as though he 
had heard it before and was trying to 
remember. "Earthman. Then it is as 
the winds have said, blowing across the 
d eHer t — that Mars is dead and men 
from other worlds defile her dust." He 
looked out over the wine-shop and all 
the people ' who would not admit his 
presence. "Change," he whispered. 
"Death and change and the passing 
away of things." 

The muscles of his face drew tight. 
He drank and I could see now that he 
had been drinking for a long time, for 
days, perhaps for weeks. There was a 
quiet madness on him. 

"Why do the people shun you V 
"Only a man of Earth would need to 
ask," he said and made a sound of 
laughter, very dry and bitter. 

I was thinking, A new race, an un- 
known race! I was thinking of the fame 
that sometimes comes to men who dis- 
cover a new thing, and of a Chair I 
might sit in at the University if I added 
one bright unheard-of piece of the 
shadowy mosaic of Martian history. I 
had had my share of wine and a bit 
more. That Chair looked a mile high 
and made of gold. 

The stranger said softly, "I go from 
place to place in this wallow of Barra- 
kesh and everywhere it is the same. I 
have ceased to be." His white teeth glit- 
tered for an instant in the shadow of the 
cowl. "They were wiser than I, my 
people. When Shandakor is dead, we 
are dead also, whether our bodies live-or 
not." 

"Shandakor?" I said. It had a sound 
of distant bells. 

"How should an Earthman know? 
Yes, Shandakor! Ask of the men of 
Kesh and the men of Shim! Ask the 
kings of Mekh, who are half around the 
world! Ask of all the men of Mars— 
they have not forgotten Shandakor! But 
they will not tell you. It is a bitter shame 
to them, the memory and the name." 

He stared out across the turbulent 
throng that Silled the room and flowed 



THE LAST DAYS 
over to the noisy street outside. "And I 
am here among" them—lost." 

"Shandakor is dead?" 

"Dying. There were three of us who 
did not want to die. We came south 
across the desert— one turned back, one 
perished in the sand, I am here in Ear- 
rakesh." The metal of the wine-cup bent 
between his hands. 

I said, "And yon regret your com- 
ing." 

"I should have stayed and died with 
Shandakor. I know that now. But I 
cannot go back." 

"Why not?" I was thinking how the 



OF SHANDAKOR 7 

me, "What does an Earthman want in 
Shandakor?" 

I told him. He laughed. "You study 
men," he said and laughed again, so 
that the red cloak rippled. ■ 

"If you want to go back I'll take you. 
If you don't, tell me where the city lies 
and I'll find it. Your race, your city, 
should have their place in history." 

He said nothing but the wine had 
made me very shrewd and I could guess 
at what was going on in the stranger's 
mind. I got up. 

"Consider it," I told him. "You can 
find me at the serai by the northern 



TYbuish (painisA- 









p,tu«jd pictures or you uftsnt .in artist and thnt w; 

Fortunately the term was expanded li> include any 
job in artistic fashion — whether that work is juggling 
or stealing bases like Tyius Raymond Cobb. And 
rated as an art, are generally awarded the term. 

Most of the time they don't rate it — for the at 
creation of an illusion that casts a tight web around 
mood the artist desires. It is a very special magi 
acquired its mastery. 

Leigh Bracken is certainly one of them. She can 
the most expert fisherman, can paint word-pictui 
images in the mind and imagination of the reader, 
by less gifted authors she can evoke high tragedy, 
bearable beauty or decay or horror. 

We have a- hunch Hi.;-, this «ory rinds her at her v, 
say that it is not proj.it:-!;- sd.-:ici' fi.iion. To whi 
we can only counter, "Who cares?" 



or woman who painted pictures. The 
composers, to actors, to authors. Yon 
s that. 

one in any sort of work who does his 
; cigar boxes like the late W. C. Fields 
authors, since fiction- writing is today 

tist must convey feeling through the 
the beholder and impels him into the 
: and only a very few authors have 

cast a mood-net more unerringly than 
cs that strike correspondingly vivid 
Using the same keyboards employed 



name John Ross would look, inscribed 
in gold-en letters on the scroll of the dis- 
coverers. 

"The desert is wide, Earthman. Too 
wide for one alone." 

And I said, "I have a caravan. I am 
going north tonight." 

A light came into his eyes, so strange 
and deadly that I was afraid. "No," he 
whispered. "No!" 

I sat in silence, looking out across the 
crowd that had forgotten me as well, 
because I sat with the stranger. A new 
race, an unknown city. And I was 
drunk. 

After a long while the stranger asked 



gate until the lesser moon is up. Then 
I'll be gone." 

"Wait." His fingers fastened on my 
wrist. They hurt. I looked into his face 
and I did not like what I saw there. 
But, as Kardak had mentioned, I was 
not given much to wisdom. 

The stranger said, "Your men will 
not go beyond the Wells of Karthedon." 

"Then we'll go without them." 

A long long silence. Then he said, "So 
be it." 

I knew what he was thinking as 
plainly as though he had spoken the 
words. He was thinking that I was only 
an Earthman and that he would kill me 



STARTLING STORIES 



when we came in sight of Shandakor. 



JLe 



n 



L HE caravan tracks branch off at 
the Wells of Karthedon. One goes west- 
ward into Shun and one goes north 
through the passes of Outer Kesh. But 
there is a third one, more ancient than 
the others. It goes toward the east and 
it is never used. The deep rock wells 
are dry and the stone-built shelters have 
vanished under the roiling dunes. It is 
not until the track begins to climb the 
mountains that there are even mem- 
ories. 

Kardak refused politely to go beyond 
the Wells. He would wait for me, he 
eaid, a certain length of time, and if I 
came back we would go on into Shun. If 
I didn't— well, his full pay was left in 
charge of the local headman. He would 
collect it and go home. He had not liked 
having the stranger with us. He had 
doubled his price. 

-In all that long march up from Bar- 
rakesh I had not been able to get a word 
out of Kardak or the men concerning 
Shandakor. The stranger had not 
spoken either. He had told me his name 
—Corin— and nothing more.'' Cloaked 
and cowled he rode alone and brooded. 
His private devils were still with Mm 
and he had a new one now— impatience. 
He would have ridden us all to death if 
I had let him. 

So Gorin and I went east alone from 
Karthedon, with two led animals and all 
the water we could carry. And now I 
could not hold him back. 

"There is no time to stop," he said. 
"The days are running out. There is no 

When we reached the mountains we 
had only three animals left and when 
we crossed the first ridge we were afoot 
and leading the one remaining beast 
which carried the dwindling water 
skins. 

We were following a road now. Part- 
ly hewn and partly worn it led up and 
over the mountains, those naked lean- 



ing mountains that were full of silence 
and peopled only with the shapes of red 
rock that the wind had carved. 

"Armies used to come this way," said 
Corin. "Kings and caravans and beg- 
gars and human slaves, singers and 
daneing girls and the embassies of 
princes. This was the road to Shanda- 
kor." 

And we went along it at a madman's 
pace. 

The beast fell in a slide of rock and 
broke its neck and we carried the last 
water skin between us. It was not a 
heavy burden. It grew lighter and then 
was almost gone. 

One afternoon, long before sunset, 
Corin said abruptly, "We will stop 
here." 

The road went steeply up before us. 
There was nothing to be seen or heard. 
Corin sat down in the drifted dust. I 
crouched down too, a little distance 
from him. I watched him. His face was 
hidden and he did not speak. 

The shadows thickened in that deep 
and narrow way. Overhead the strip of 
sky flared saffron and then red — and 
then the bright cruel stars came out. 
The wind worked at its cutting and 
polishing of stone, muttering to itself, 
an old and senile wind full of dissatis- 
faction and complaint. There was the 
dry faint click of falling pebbles. 

The gun felt cold in my hand, covered 
with my cloak. I did not want to usejt. 
But I did not want to die here on this 
silent pathway of vanished armies and 
caravans and kings. 

A shaft of greenish moonlight crept 
down between the walls. Corin stood 
up. 

"Twice now I have followed lies. 
Here I am met at last by truth." 
I said, "I don't understand you." 
"I thought I could escape the destruc- 
tion. That was a lie. Then I thought I 
could return to share it. That too was 
a lie. Now I see the truth. Shandakor 
is dying. I fled from that dying, which 
is the end of the city and the end of my 
race. The shame of flight is on me and 



THE LAST DAYS 
I can never go back." 

"What will you do?" 

"I will die here." 

"And I?" 

"Did you think," asked Corin softly, 
"that I would bring an alien creature in 
to watch the end of Shandakor?" 

I MOVED first. I didn't know what 
weapons he might have., hidden under 
that dark red cloak. I threw myself over 
on the dusty rock. Something went past 
my head with a hiss and a rattle and a 
name of light and then I cut the legs 
from under him and he fell down for- 
ward and I got on top of him, very fast. 

He had vitality. I had to hit his head 
twice against the rock before I could 
take out of his hands the vicious little 
instrument of metal rods. I threw it 
far away. I could not feel any other 
weapons on him except a knife and I 
took that, too. Then I got up. 

I said, "I will cany you to Shan- 
dakor." 

He lay still, draped in the tumbled 
folds of his cloak. His breath made a 
harsh sighing in his throat. "So be it." 
And then lie asked for water. 

I went to where the skin lay and 
picked it up, thinking that there was 
perhaps a cupful left. I didn't hear him 
move. What he did was done very 
silently with a sharp-edged ornament. 
I brought him the water and it was al- 
ready over. I tried to lift him up. His 
eyes looked at me with a curiously bril- 
liant look. Then lie whispered three 
words, in a language i didn't know, and 
died. I let him down again. 

His blood had poured out across the 
dust. And even in the moonlight I 
could see that it was not the color of 
human blood. 

I crouched there for a long while, 
overcome with a strange sickness. Then 
I reached out and pushed that red cowl 
back to bare his head. It was a beauti- 
ful head. I had never seen it. If I had, I 
would not have gone alone with Corin 
into the mountains. I would have under- 
stood many things if I had seen it and 



OF SHANDAKOR y 

not for fame nor money would I have 
gone to Shandakor. 

His skull was narrow and arched and 
the shaping of the bones was very fine. 
On that skull was a covering of short 
curling fibres that had an almost metal- 
lic luster in the moonlight, silvery and 
bright. They stirred under inv hand, 
soft silken wires responding of them- 
selves to an alien touch. And even as I 
took my hand away the luster faded 
from them and the texture changed. 

When I touched them again they did 
not stir. Corin's ears were pointed and 
there were silvery tufts on the tips of 
them. On them and on his forearms and 
his breast were the faint, faint memories 
of scales, a powdering of shining du3t 
across the golden skin. I looked at his 
teeth and they were not human either. 

I knew now why Corin had laughed 
when I told him that I studied men. 

It was very stili. I could hear the fall- 
ing of pebbles and the little stones that 
rolled all lonely down the cliffs and the 
shift and whisper of dust in the settling 
cracks. The Wells of Karthedon were 
far away. Too far by several lifetimes 
for one man on foot with a cup of water. 

I looked at the road that went steep 
and narrow on ahead. 1 looked at Corin. 
The wind was cold and the shaft of 
moonlight was growing thin. I did not 
want to stay alone in the dark with 
Corin. 

I rose and went on along the road 
that led to Shandakor. 

It was a long climb but not a long 
way. The road came out between two 
pinnacles of rock. Below that gateway, 
far below in the light of the little low 
moons that pass so swiftly over Mars, 
there was a mountain valley. 

Once around that valley there were 
great peaks crowned with snow and 
crags of black and crimson where the 
flying lizards nested, the hawk-lizards 
with the red eyes. Below the crags 
there were forests, purple and green 
and gold, and a black tarn deep on the 
valley floor. But when I saw it it waa 
dead. The peaks had fallen away and 



10 



STARTLING STORIES 



the forests were gone and the tarn was 
only a pit in the naked rock. 

In the midst of that desolation stood 
a fortress city. 

There were lights in it, soft lights of 
many colors. The outer walls stood up, 
black and massive, a barrier against the 
creeping dust, and within them was an 
island of life. The high towers were not 
ruined. The lights burned among them 
and there was movement in the streets. 

A LIVING city— and Corin had said 
■£*■ that Shandakor was almost dead. 

A rich and living city. I did not 
understand. But I knew one th ing. 
Those who moved along the distant 
streets of Shandakor were not human. 

I stood shivering in that windy pass. 
The bright towers of the city beckoned 
and there was something unnatural 
about all light life in the deathly valley. 
And then I thought that human or not 
the people of Shandakor might sell me 
water and a beast to carry it and I could 
get awav out of these mountains, back 
to the Wells. 

The road broadened, winding down 
the slope. I walked in the middle of it, 
not expecting anything. And suddenly 
two men came out of nowhere and bar- 
red the way. 

I yelled. I jumped backward with my 
heart pounding and the sweat pouring 
off me. I saw their broadswords glitter 
in the moonlight. And they laughed. 

They were human. One was a tall red 
barbarian from Mekh, which lay to the 
east half around Mars. The other was a 
leaner browner man from Taarak, 
which was farther still. I was scared 
and angry and astonished and I asked a 
foolish question. 

"What are you doing hereV 

"We wait," said the man of Taarak. 
He made a circle with his arm to take 
in all the darkling slopes around the 
valley. "From Kesh and Shun, from all 
the countries of the Norlands and the 
Marches men have come, to wait.' And 
you?" 

"I'm lost," I said. "I'm an Earth- 



man and I have no quarrel w T ith any- 
one." I was still shaking but now it was 
with relief. I w-ould not have to go to 
Shandakor. If there was a barbarian 
army gathered here it must have sup- 
plies and I could deal with them. 

I told them what I needed. "I can pay 
for them, pay well." 

They looked at each other. 

"Very well. Come and you can bar- 
gain with the chief." 

They fell in on either side of me. We 
walked three paces and then I was on 
my face in the dirt and they were all 
over me like two great wildcats. When 
they were finished they had everything 
I owned except the few articles of cloth- 
ing for which they had no use. I got up 
again, wiping the blood from my mouth. 

"For an outlander," said the man of 
Mekh, "you fight well." He chinked 
my money-bag up and down in his palm, 
feeling the weight of it, and then he 
handed me the leather bottle that hung 
at his side. "Drink," he told me. "That 
much I can't deny you. But our water 
must be carried a long w T ay across these 
mountains and we have none to waste 
on Earthmen." 

I was not proud. 1 emptied his bottle 
for him. And the man of Taarak said, 
smiling, "Go on to Shandakor. Perhaps 
they will give you water. " 

"But you've taken all my money!" 

"They are rich in Shandakor. They 
don't need money. Go ask them for 
water." 

They stood there, laughing at some 
secret joke of their own, and I did not 
like the sound of it. I could have killed 
them both and danced on their bodies 
but they had left me nothing but my 
bare hands to fight with. So presently 
I turned and went on and left them 
grinning in the dark behind me. 

The road led down and out across the 
plain. I could feel eyes watching me, 
the eyes of the sentinels on the rounding 
slopes, piercing the dim moonlight. The 
walls of the city began to rise higher 
and higher. They hid everything but the 
top of one tall tower that had a queer 



THE LAST DAYS 

squat globe on top of it. Rods of crystal 
projected* from the globe. It revolved 
slowly and the rods sparkled with a sort 
of white fire that was just on the edge 
of seeing. 

A causeway lifted toward the West- 
ern Gate. I mounted it, going very slow- 
ly, not wanting to go at all. And now 
I could see that the gate was open. Open 
— and this was a city under siege! 

I stood still for some time, trying to 
puzzle out what meaning this might 
have— an army that did not attack and 
a city with open gates. I could not find 
a meaning. There were soldiers on the 
walls but they were lounging at their 
ease under the bright banners. Beyond 
the gate many people moved about but 
they were intent on their own affairs. I 
could not hear their voices. 

I crept closer, closer still. Nothing 
happened. The sentries did not chal- 
lenge me and no one spoke. 

You know how necessity can force a 
man against his judgment and against 
his will? 

I entered Shandakor. 

m 

JE- HERE was an open space beyond 
the gate, a square large enough to hold 
an army. Around its edges were the 
stalls of merchants. Their canopies 
were of rich woven stuffs and the wares 
they sold were such things as have not 
been seen on Mars for more centuries 
than men can remember. 

There were fruits and rare furs, the 
long-lost dyes that never fade, furnish- 
ings carved from vanished woods. There 
were spices and wines and exquisite 
cloths. In one place a merchant from the 
far south offered a ceremonial rug 
woven from the long bright hair of 
virgins. And it wa3 new. 

These merchants were all human. 
The nationalities of some of them I 
knew. Others I could guess at from 
traditional accounts. Some were utterly 
unknown. 

Of the throngs that moved about 



OF SHANDAKOR II 

among the stalls, quite a number were 
human also. There were merchant 
princes come to barter and there were 
companies of slaves on their way to the 
auction block. But the others . . . 

I stayed where I was, pressed into a 
shadowy corner by the gate, and the 
chill that was on me was not all from 
the night wind. 

The golden-skinned silver-crested 
lords of Shandakor I knew well enough 
from Corin. I say lords because that is 
how they bore themselves, walking 
proudly in their own place, attended by 
human slaves. And the humans who 
were not slaves made way for them and 
were most deferential as though they 
knew that they were greatly favored to 
be allowed inside the city at all. The 
women of Shandakor were very beauti- 
ful, slim golden sprites with their 
bright eyes and pointed ears. 

And there were others. Slender crea- 
tures with great wings, some who were 
lithe and furred, some who were hair- 
less and ugly and moved with a sinuous 
gliding, some so strangely shaped and 
colored that I could not even guess at 
their possible evolution. 

The lost races of Mars. The ancient 
races, of whose pride and power noth- 
ing was left but the half-forgotten tales 
of old men in the farthest corners of the 
planet. Even I, who had made the an- 
thropological history of Mars my busi- 
ness, had never heard of them except as 
the distorted shapes of legend, as satyrs 
and giants used to be known on Earth. 

Yet here they were in gorgeous trap- 
pings, served by naked humans whose 
fetters were made of precious metals. 
And before them too the merchants 
drew aside and bowed. 

The lights burned, many-colored — - 
not the torches and cressets of the Mars 
I knew but cool radiances that fell from 
crystal globes. The walls of the build- 
ings that rose around the market place 
were faced with rare veined marbles 
and the fluted towers that crowned 
them were inlaid with turquoise and 
cinnabar, with amber and jade and the 



12 



STARTLING STOIUI-S 



wonderful corals of the southern 
oceans. 

The splendid robes and the naked 
bodies moved in a swirling pattern 
about the square. There was buying and 
selling and I could see the mouths of the 
people open and shut. The mouths of 
the women laughed. But in all that 
crowded place there was no sound. No 
voice, no scuff of sandal, no chink of 
mail. There was only silence, the utter 
stillness of deserted places. 

I began to understand why there was 
no need to shut the gates. No super- 
stitious barbarian would venture him- 
self into a city peopled by living phan- 
toms. 

And I— I was civilized. I was, in my 
non-mechanical way, a scientist. And 
had I not been trapped by my need for 
water and supplies I would have run 
away right out of the valley. But I had 
no pJace to run to and so I stayed and 
sweated and gagged on the acrid taste 
of fear. 

WHAT were these creatures that 
made no sound? Ghosts — images — 
dreams? The human and the non- 
human, the ancient, the proud, the lost 
and forgotten who were so insanely 
present- — did they have some subtle 
form of life I knew npthlng about? 
Could they see me as I saw them? Did 
they have thought and volition of their 
own? 

It was the solidity of them, the in- 
tense and perfectly prosaic business in 
which they were engaged. Ghosts do 
not barter. They do not hang jeweled 
necklets upon their women nor argue 
about the price of a studded harness. 

The solidity and the silence — that 
was the worst of it. If there had been 
one small living sound . . . 

A dying city, Corin had said. The 
days are running out. What if they had 
run out? What if I were here in this 
massive pile of stone with all its count- 
less rooms and streets and galleries and 
hidden ways, alone with the lights and 
the soundless phantoms? 



Pure terror is a nasty thing. I had it 
then. 

I began to move, very cautiously, 
along the wall. I wanted to get away 
from that market place. One of the hair- 
less gliding non-humans was bartering' 
for a female slave. The girl was shriek- 
ing. I could see every drawn muscle in 
her face, the spasmodic working of her 
throat. Not the faintest sound came out. 

I found a street that paralleled the 
wail. I went along it, catching glimpses 
of people— human people— inside the 
lighted buildings. Now and then men 
passed me and I hid from them. There 
was still no sound. I was careful how I 
set my feet. Somehow I had the idea 
that if I made a noise something ter- 
rible would happen. 

A group of merchants came toward 
me. I stepped back into an archway 
and suddenly from behind me there 
came three spangled women of the 
Serais. I was caught. 

I did not want those silent laughing 
women to touch me. I leaped back to- 
ward the street and the merchants 
paused, turning their heads. I thought 
that they had seen me. I hesitated and 
the women came on. Their painted eyes 
shone and their red hps glistened. The 
ornaments on their bodies flashed. They 
walked straight into me. 

I made noise then, all I had in my 
lungs. And the women passed through 
me. They spoke to the merchants and 
the merchants laughed. They went off 
together down the street. They hadn't 
seen me. They hadn't heard rae. And 
when I got in their way I was no more 
than a shadow. They passed through 
me. 

I sat down on the stones of the street 
and tried to think. I sat for a long time. 
Men and women walked through me as 
through the empty air. I sought to r£- 
member any sudden pain, as of an arrow 
in the back that might have killed me 
between two seconds, so that I hadn't 
known about it. It seemed more likely 
that I should be the ghost than the other 
way around. 



THE LAST DATS 

I couldn't remember. My body felt 
solid to my hands as did the stones I 
sat on. They were cold and finally the 
cold got me up and sent me on again. 
There was no reason to hide any more. 
I walked down the middle of the street 
and I got used to not turning aside. 

I came to another wall, running at 
right angles back into the city. I fol- 
lowed that and it curved around gradu- 
ally until I found myself bach at the 
market place, at the inner end of it. 
There was a gateway, with the main 
part of the city beyond it, and the wall 
continued. The non-humans passed back 
and forth through the gate but no 
human did except the slaves. I realized 
then that all this section was a ghetto 
for the humans who came to Shandakor 
with the caravans. 

I remembered how Corin had felt 
about me. And J wondered — granted 
that I were still alive and that some of 
the people of Shandakor were still on 
the same plane as myself — how they 
would feel about me if I trespassed in 
their city. 

There was a fountain in the market- 
place. The water sprang up sparkling 
in the colored light and filled a wide 
basin of carved stone. Men and women 
were drinking from it. I went to the 
fountain but when I put my hands in it 
all I felt was a dry basin tilled with dust. 
I lifted my hands and let the dust trickle 
from them. I could see it cleai'Iy. But I 
saw the water too. A child leaned over 
and splashed it and it wetted the gar- 
ments of the people. They struck the 
child and he cried and there was no 
sound. 

I went on through the gate that was 
forbidden to the human race. 

The avenues were wide. There were 
trees and flowers, wide parks and gar- 
den villas, great buildings as graceful 
as they were tall. A wise proud city, 
ancient in culture but not decayed, as 
beautiful as Athens but rich and 
strange, with a touch of the alien in 
every line of it. Can you think what it 
was like to walk in that city, among the 



OF SHANDAKOR 13 

silent throngs that were not human — to 
see the glory of it, that was not human 
either? 

The towers of jade and cinnabar, the 
golden minarets, the lights and the col- 
ored silks, the enjoyment and the 
strength. And the people of Shandakor! 
No matter how far their soiite have 
gone they will never forgive me. 

How long I wandered I don't know. 
I had almost lost my fear in wonder 
at 'what I saw. And then, all at once 
in that deathly stillness, I heard a sound 
— the Quick, soft scuffing of sandaled 
feet. 



I 



IV 



STOPPED where I was, in the mid- 
dle of a plaza. The tall silver-crested ones 
drank wine under canopies of dusky 
blooms and in the center a score of 
winged girls as lovely as swans danced 
a slow strange measure that was more 
like flight than dancing. I looked all 
around. There were many people. How 
could you tell which one had made a 
noise? 

Silence. 

I turned and ran across the marble 
paving. I ran hard and then suddenly 
I stopped again, listening. Scuff-scuff— 
no more than a whisper, very light and 
swift. I spun around but it was gone. 
The soundless people walked and the 
dancers wove and shifted, spreading 
their white wings. 

Someone was watching me. Some one 
of those indifferent shadows was not a 
shadow. 

I went on. Wide streets led off from 
the plaza. I took one of them. I tried 
the trick of shifting pace and two or . 
three times I caught the echo of other 
steps than mine. Once I knew it was 
deliberate. W&oever followed me slip- 
ped silently among the noiseless crowd, 
blending with them, protected by them, 
only making a show of footsteps now 
and then to goad me. 

I spoke to that mocking presence. I 
talked to it and listened to my own voice 



I4 STARTLING 

ringing hollow from the walls. The 
groups of people ebbed and flowed 
around me and there was no answer. 

I tried making sudden leaps here and 
there among the passers-by with my 
arms outspread. But all I caught was 
empty air. I wanted a place to hide and 
there was none. 

The street was long. I went its length 
and the someone followed me. There 
were many buildings, all Sighted and 
populous and deathly still. I thought 
of trying to hide in the buildings but 
I could not bear to be closed in between 
walls with those people who were not 
people. 

I came into a great circle, where a 
number of avenues met ai-ound the very 
tall tower I had seen with the revolv- 
ing globe on top of it. I hesitated, not 
knowing which way to go. Someone was 
sobbing and I realized that it was my- 
self, laboring to breathe. Sweat ran 
into the corners of my mouth and it 
was cold, and bitter. 

A pebble dropped at my feet with a 
brittle click. 

I bolted out across the square. Four 
or five times, without reason, like a 
rabbit caught in the open, I changed 
course and fetched up with my back 
against an ornamental pillar. From 
somewhere there came a sound of 
laughter. 

I began to yell. I don't know what I 
said. Finally I stopped and there was 
only the, silence amd the passing throngs, 
who did not sec nor hear me. And new 
it seemed to me that the silence was 
full of whispers jnst below the thresh- 
old of hearing. 

A second pebble clattered off the pillar 
above'my head. Another stung my body. 
I sprang away from the pillar. There 
was laughter and I ran. 

There were infinities of streets, all 
glowing with color. There were many 
faces, strange faces, and robes blown 
out on a night wind, litters with scarlet 
curtains and beautiful cars like chariots 
drawn by beasts. They flowed past me 
like smoke, without sound, without sub- 



STOE1ES 

stance, and the laughter pursued me, 
and I ran. 

Four men of Shandakor came toward 
me. I plunged through them but their 
bodies opposed mine, their hands 
caught me and I could see their eyes, 
their black shiv/mg eyes, looking at 

I struggled briefly and then it was 
suddenly very dark. 

The darkness caught me up and took 
me somewhere. Voices talked far away. 
One of them was a light young shiny 
sort of voice. It matched the laughter 
that had haunted me down the streets. 
I hated it. 

I hated it so much that I fought to 
get free of the black river that wan 
carrying me. There was a vertiginous 
whirling of light and sound and stub- 
born shadow and then things steadied 
down and I was ashamed of myself for 
having passed out. 

I was in a room. It was fairly large, 
very beautiful, very old, the first place 
I had seen in Shandakor that showed 
real age — Martian age, that runs back 
before history had begun on Earth. The 
floor, of some magnificent somber stone 
the color of a moonless night, and the 
pale slim pillars that upheld the arching 
roof all showed the hollowings and 
smoothnesses of centuries. The wall 
paintings had dimmed and softened arid 
the rugs that burned in pools of color 
on that dusky floor were worn as thin 
as silk. 

There were men and women in that 
room, fee alien folk of Shandakor. But 
these breathed and spoke and ware 
alive. One of them, a girl-child with 
slender thighs and little pointed breasts, 
leaned against a pillar close beside me. 
Rev biack eyes watched me, full of 
dancing lights. When, she saw that I was 
awake again she smiled and flicked a 
pebble at my feet. 

! got up. I wanted to get that golden 
ba&y between my hands and make it 
scream And she said in High Martian, 
"Are you a human? I have never see!', 
one before close to." 



TJBE LAST DAYS 

A MAN in a dark robe said, "Be still, 
-"*- Duani." He came and stood before 
me. He did not seem to be armed but 
others were and I remembered Corin's 
little weapon. I got hold of myself and 
did none of the things I wanted to do. 

"What are you doing here ?" asked the 
man in the dark robe. 

I told him about myself and Corin, 
omitting only the fight that he and I 
had had before he died, and I told him 
how the hillmen had robbed me. 

"They sent me here," I finished, "to 
ask for water." 

Someone made a harsh humorless 
sound. The man before me said, "They 
were in a jesting mood." 

"Surely you can spare some water 
and a beast!" 

"Our beasts were slaughtered Jong 
ago. And as for water . . ." He paused, 
then asked bitterly, "Don't you under- 
stand? We are dying here of thirst!" 

I looked at him and at the she-imp 
called Duani and the others. "You don't 
show any signs of it," I said. 

"You saw how the human tribes have 
gathered like wolves upon the hills. 
What do you think they wait for? A 
year ago they found and cut the buried 
aqueduct that brought water into Shan- 
dakov from the polar cap. All they 
needed then was patience. And their 
time is very near. The store we had 
:n the cisterns is almost gone." 

A certain anger at their submissive- 
aess made me say, "Why do you Stay 
Stere and die like mice bottled up in a 
•;ir? You could have fought your way 
f>ut. I've seen your weapons." 

"Our weapons are old and we are 
very few. And suppose that some of 
us did survive — tell me again, Earth- 
man, how did Corin fare in the world 
of men?" He shook his head. "Once we 
were great and Shandakor was mighty. 
The human tribes of half a world paid 
tribute to us. We are only the last 
poor shadow of our race but we will 
not beg from men !" 

"Besides," said Duani softly, "where 
-:se could we live but in Shandakor?" 



OF SHANDAKOE 15 

"What about the others?" I asked. 
"The silent ones." 

"They are the past," said the dark- 
robed man and his voice rang like a 
distant flare of trumpets. 

Still I did not understand. I did 
not understand at all. But before I could 
ask more questions a man came up and 
said, "RhuL he will have to die." 

The tufted tips of Duani's ears quiv- 
ered and her crest of silver curls came 
almost erect. 

"No, RhuH" she cried. "At least not 
right away." 

There was a clamor from the others, 
chiefly in a rapid angular speech that 
must have predated all the syllables of 
men. And the one who had spoken be- 
fore to Rhul repeated, "He will have 
to die! He has no place here. And we 
can't spare water." 

"I'll share mine with him," said 
Duani, "for awhile." 

1 didn't want any favors from her 
and said so. "I came here after sup- 
plies. You haven't any, so I'll go away 
again. It's as simple as that." I couldn't 
buy from the barbarians, but I might 
make shift to steal, 

Rhul shook his head. "I'm afraid not. 
We are only a handful. For years our 
single defense has been the living ghosts 
of our past who walk the streets, the 
shadows who man the walls. The bar- 
barians believe in enchantments. If you 
were to enter Shandakor and leave it 
again alive the barbarians would know 
that the enchantment cannot kill. They 
would not wait any longer." 

Angrily, because I was afraid, I said, 
"I can't see what difference that would 
make. You're going to die in a short 
while anyway." 

"But in our own way, Earthman, and 
in our own time. Perhaps, being human, 
you can't understand that. It is a ques- 
tion of pride. The oldest race of Mars 
will end well, as it began." 

He turned away with a smali nod of 
the head that said Mil him — as easily 
as that. And I saw the ugly little 
weapons ri3e. 



HHT 1 

M.HERE was a split second then that 
seemed like a year. I thought of many 
things but none of them were any good. 
It was a devil of a place to die with- 
out even a human hand to help me 
under. And then Duani flung her arms 
around me. 

"You're all so full of dying and big 
thoughts!" she yelled at them. "And 
you're all paired off or so old you can't 
do anvthing but thi?ik ! What about me ? 
I don't have anyone to talk to and I'm 
sick of wander : ng alone, thinking' new 
I'm going to die! Let me have him just 
for a little while? I told you I'd share 
my water." 

On Earth a child might talk that way 
about a stray flog. And it is written 
in an old Book that a live dog is better 
than a dead lion. I hoped they would 
let her keep me. 

They did. Rhul looked at Duani with 
a sort of weary compassion and lifted 
his hand. "Wait," he said to the men 
with the weapons. "I have thought how 
this human may be useful to us. We 
have so little time left now that it is a 
pity to waste any of it, yet much of it 
must be used up in tending the machine, 
He could do that labor— and a man can 
keep alive on very little water." 

The others thought that over. Some 
of them dissented violently, not so much 
on the grounds of water as that it was 
unthinkable that a human should in- 
trude on the last days of Shandakor. 
Corin had said the same thing. But 
Rhui was an old man. The tufts of his 
pointed ears were colorless as glass 
and his face was graven deep with years 
and wisdom had distilled in him its 
bitter brew. 

"A human of our own world, yes. But 
this man is of Earth and the men of 
Earth will come to be the new rulers 
of Mars as we were the old. And Mars 
will love them no better than she did 
us because they are as alien as we. So 
it is not unfitting that he should see us 
out." 



I STORIES 

They had to be content with that.. I 
think they were already so close to the 
end that they did not really care. By 
ones and twos they left as though al- 
ready they had wasted too much time 
awav from the wonders that there were 
in the streets outside. Some of the men 
still held the weapons on me and others 
went and brought precious chains such 
as the human slaves had worn— shack- 
les, so that I should not escape. They 
put them on me and Duani laughed. 

"Come," said Rhul, "and I will show 
you the machine." 

He led me from the room and up a 
winding stair. There were tall em- 
brasures and looking through them I 
discovered that we were in the base 
of the very high tower with the globe. 
They must have carried me back to it 
after Duani had chased me with her 
laughter and her pebbles. I looked out 
over the glowing streets, so full of 
splendor and of silence, and asked Rhul 
why there were no ghosts inside the 
tower. 

"You have seen the globe with the 
crystal rods?" 
"Yes." 

"We are under the shadow of its core. 
There had to be some retreat for us into 
reality. Otherwise we would lose the 
meaning of the dream." 

The winding stair went up and up. 
The chain between my ankles clattered 
musically. Several times I tripped on 
it and fell. 

"Never mind," Duani said. "You 11 
grow used to it." 

We came at last into a circular room 
high in the tower. And I stopped and 
stared. 

MOST of the space in that room was 
occupied by a web of metal girders 
that supported a great gleaming shaft. 
The shaft disappeared upward through 
the roof. It was not tail but very mas- 
sive, revolving slowly and quietly. There 
were traps, presumably for access to the 
offset shaft and the cogs that turned it. 
A ladder led to a trap in the roof. 



THE LAST DAYS 

AH the visible metal was sound with 
only a little surface corrosion. What the 
alloy was I don't know and when I asked 
Rhul he only smiled rather sadly. 
"Knowledge is found," he said, "only 
to be lost again. Even we of Shandakor 
forget." 

Every bit of that enormous structure 
had been shaped and polished and fitted 
into place by hand. Nearly all the Mar- 
tian peoples work in metal. They seem 
to have a genius for it and while they 
are not and apparently never have been 
mechanical, as some of our races are 
on Earth, they find many uses for metal 
that we have never thought of. 

But this before me was certainly the 
high point of the metal-workers' craft. 
When I saw what was down below, the 
beautifully simple power plant and the 
rotary drive set-up with fewer moving 
parts than I would have thought pos- 
sible, I was even move respectful. "How 
old is it?" I asked and again Rhul shook 
his head. 

"Several thousand years ago there is 
a recoi'd of the yearly Hosting of the 
Shadows and it was not the first." He 
motioned me to follow him up the 
ladder, bidding Duani sternly to remain 
where she was. She came anyway. 

There was a railed platform open to 
the universe and directly above it swung 
the mighty globe with its crystal rods 
that gleamed so strangely. Shandakor 
lay beneath us r a tapestry of many 
colors, bright and still, and out along 
the dark sides of the valley the tribes- 
men waited for the light to die. 

"When there is no one left to tend 
the machine it will stop in time and 
then the men who have hated us so long 
will take what they want of Shandakor. 
Only fear has kept them out this long. 
The riches of half a world Mowed 
through these streets and much of it 
remained." 

He looked up at the globe. "Yes," he 
said, "we had knowledge. More, I think, 
than any other race of Mars." 

"But you wouldn't share it with the 



OF SHANDAKOR IT 

Rhul smiled. "Would yon give little 
children weapons to destroy you? We 
gave men better ploughshares and 
brighter ornaments and if they invented 
a machine we did not take it from them. 
But we did not tempt and burden them 
with knowledge that was not their own. 
They were content to make war with ' 
sword and spear and so they had more 
pleasure and less killing and the world 
was not torn apart." 

"And you — how did you make war?" 
"We defended our city. The human 
tribes had nothing that we coveted, so 
there was no reason to fight them except 
in self-defense. When we did we won." 
He paused. "The other non-human races 
were more stupid or less fortunate. They 
perished long ago." 

HE TURNED again to his explana- 
tions of the machine. "It draws its 
power directly from the sun. Some of 
the solar energy is converted and stored 
within the globe to serve as the light- 
source. Some is sent down to turn the 
shaft." 

"What if it should stop," Duani said, 
"while we're still alive?" She shivered, 
looking out over the beautiful streets. 

"It won't — not if the Earthman 
wishes to live." 

"What would I have to gain by stop- 
ping it?" I demanded. 

"Nothing. And that," said Rhul, "is 
why I trust you. As long as the globe 
turns you are safe from the barbarians. 
After we are gone you will have the 
pick of the loot of Shandakor." 

How I was going to get away with 
it afterward he did not tell me. 

He motioned me down the ladder 
again but I asked him, "What is the 
globe, Rhul? How does it make the — 
the Shadows?" 

He frowned. "I can only tell you what 
has become, I'm afraid, mere traditional 
knowledge. Our wise men studied deeply 
into the properties of light. They learned 
that light has a definite effect upon solid 
matter and they believed, because of that 
effect, that stone and metal and crys- 
talline things retain a 'memory' of alt 



1S STARTLING 

that they have 'seen.' Why this should 
be I do not know." 

I didn't try to explain to him .the 
quantum theory and the photo-electric 
effect nor the various experiments of 
Einstein and Millikan and the men who 
followed them. I didn't know them well 
enough myself and the old High Mar- 
tian is deficient in such terminology. 
I onlv said, "The wise men of my 
world also know that the impact of light 
tears away tiny particles from the sub- 
stance it strikes." 

I was beginning to get a glimmering 
of the truth. Light-patterns 'cut' in the 
electrons of metal and stone— sound- 
patterns cut in unlikely-looking medi- 
ums of plastic, each needing only the 
proper 'needle' to recreate the recorded 
melody or the recorded picture. 

"They constructed the globe," said 
Rhul. "I do not know how many gener- 
ations that required nor how many fail- 
ures they must have had. But they 
found at last the invisible light that 
makes the stones give up their mem- 
ories." , 

In other words they had found their 
needle. What wave-length or combina- 
tion of wave-lengths in the electromag- 
netic spectrum flowed out from those 
crystal rods, there was no way for me 
to know. But where they probed the 
walls and the paving blocks of Shanda- 
kor they scanned the hidden patterns 
that we're buried in them and brought 
them forth again in form and color- 
as the electron needle brings forth whole 
symphonies from a little ridged disc. 

How they had achieved sequence and 
selectivity was another matter. Rhul 
said something about the 'memories' 
having different lengths. Perhaps he 
meant depth of penetration. The stones 
of Shandakor were ages old and the 
outer surfaces would have worn away. 
The earliest impressions would be gone 
altogether or at least have become frag- 
mentary and extremely shallow. 

Perhaps the scanning beams could 
differentiate between the overlapping 
layers of impressions by that fraction 



STORIES 

of a micron difference in depth. Photons 
onlv penetrate so far into any given 
substance but if that substance is con- 
stantly growing less in thickness the 
photons would have the effect of going 
deeper. I imagine the globe was accurate 
in centuries or numbers of centuries, 
not in years. 

However it was, the Shadows of a 
golden past walked the streets of Shan- 
dakor and the last men of the race 
waited quietly for death, remembering 
their glory. 

Rhul took me below again and showed 
me what my tasks would be, chiefly in- 
volving a queer sort of lubricant and 
a careful watch over the power leads. 
I would have to spend most of my time 
there but not all of it. During the free 
periods, Duani might take me where 
she would. 

The old man went away. Duani lea&s d 
herself against a girder and studied 
me with intense interest. "How are you 
called?" she asked. 
"John Ross." 

"JonRoss," she repeated and smiled. 
She began to walk around me, touching 
my hair, inspecting my arms and chest, 
taking a child's delight in discovering 
all the differences there were between 
herself and what we call a human. And 
that was the beginning of my captivity. 



K HERE were days and nights, scant 
food and scanter water. There was 
Duani. And .there was Shandakor. I lost 
my fear. And whether I lived to occupy 
the Chair or not, this was something to 
have seen. 

Duani was my guide. I was tender 
of my duties because my neck depended 
on them but there was time to wander 
in the streets, to watch the crowded 
pageant that was not and sense the 
stillness and the desolation that were 
so cruelly real. 

I began to get the feel of what this 
alien culture had been like and how it 
had dominated half a world without the 



THE LAST DAYS 

need of conquest. 

In a Hall of Government, built of 
white marble and decorated with wall 
friezes of austere magnificence, I 
watched the careful choosing and the 
crowning of a king. I saw the places of 
learning. I saw the young men trained 
for war as fully as they were instructed 
in the arts of peace. I saw the pleasure 
gardens, the theatres, the forums, the 
sporting fields — and I saw the places 
of work, where the men and women of 
Shandakor coaxed beauty from their 
looms and forges to trade for the things 
they wanted from the human world. 

The human slaves were brought by 
their own kind to be sold, and they 
seemed to be well treated, as one treats 
a useful animal in which one has in- 
vested money. They had their work to 
do but it was only a small part of the 
work of the city. 

The things that could be had nowhere 
else on Mars — the tools, the textiles, the 
fine work in metal and precious stones, 
the glass and porcelain — were fash- 
ioned by the people of Shandakor and 
they were proud of their skill. Their 
scientific knowledge they kept entirely 
to themselves, except what concerned 
agriculture or medicine or better ways 
of building drains and houses. 

They were the lawgivers, the teachers. 
And the humans took all they would 
give and hated them for it. How long 
it had taken these people to attain such 
a degree of civilization Duani could not 
tell me. Neither could old Rhul. 

"It is certain that we lived in com- 
munities, had a form of civil govern- 
ment, a system of numbers and written 
speech, before the human tribes. There 
are traditions of an earlier race than 
ours, from whom we learned these 
things. Whether or not this is true I do 
not know." 

In its prime Shandakor had. been a 
vast and flourishing city with count- 
less thousands of inhabitants. Yet I 
could see no signs of poverty or crime. 
I couldn't even find a prison. 

"Murder was punishable by death," 



OF SHANDAKOR 19 

said Rhul, "but it was most infrequent. 
Theft was for slaves. We did not stoop 
to it." He watched my face, smiling 
a little acid smile. "That startles you 
— a great city without suffering or 
crime or places of punishment." 

I had to admit that it did. "Elder 
race or not, how did you manage to do 
it? I'm a student of cultures, both here 
and on my own world. I know all the 
usual patterns of development and I've 
read all the theories about them— but 
Shandakor doesn't fit any of them." 

Rhul's smile deepened. "You are 
human," he said. "Do you wish the 
truth?" 

"Of course." 

"Then I will tell you. We developed 
the faculty of reason." 

For a moment I thought he was jok- 
ing. "Come," I said, "man is a reason- 
ing being — on Earth the only reasoning 
being." 

"I do not know of Earth," he an- 
swered courteously. "But on Mars man 
has always said, 'I reason, I am above 
the beasts because I reason.' And he 
lias been very proud of himself because 
he could reason. It is the mark of his 
humanity. Being convinced that reason 
operates automatically within him he 
orders his life and his government upon 
emotion and superstition. 

"He hates and fears and believes, not 
with reason but because he is told to 
by other men or by tradition. He does 
one thing and says another and his 
reason teaches him no difference be- 
tween fact and falsehood. His bloodiest 
wars are fought for the merest whim 
— and that is why we did not give him 
weapons. His greatest follies appear to 
him the highest wisdom, his basest be- 
trayals become noble acts— and that 
is why we could not teaeh him justice. 
We learned to reason. Man only learned 
to talk." 

I understood then why the human 
tribes had hated the men of Shandakor. 
I said angrily, "Perhaps that is so on 
Mars. But only reasoning minds can 
develop great technologies and we hu- 



,2,1 STARTLING 

mans of Earth have outstripped yours 
a million times. All right, you know or 
knew some things we haven't learned 
yet, in optics and some branches of 
electronics and perhaps in metallurgy. 
But . . ." 

I went on to tell him all the things 
we had that Shandakor did not. "You 
never went beyond the beast of burden 
and the simple wheel. We achieved 
flight long ago. We have conquered 
space and the planets. We'll go on to 
conquer the stars!" 

Rhul nodded. "Perhaps we were 
wrong. We remained here and con- 
quered ourselves." He looked out to- 
ward the slopes where the barbarian 
army waited and he sighed. "In the 
end it is all the same." 



D 



AYS and nights and Ihiani, bring- 
ing me food, sharing her water, 
linking questions, taking me through the 
city. The only thing she would not show 
mo was something they called the Place 
of Sleep. "I shall be there soon enough," 
she said and shivered. 

"How long?" I asked. It was an ugly 
thing to say. 

"We are not told. Rhul watches the 
level in the cisterns and when it's 
time . . ." She made a gesture with 
her hands. "Let us go up en the wall." 

We went up among the ghostly sol- 
diery and the phantom banners. Out- 
side there were darkness and death and 
the coming of death. Inside there were 
light and beauty, the last proud blaze 
of Shandakor under the shadow of its 
doom. There was an eerie magic in it 
that had begun to tell on me. I watched 
Duani. She leaned against the parapet, 
looking outward. The wind ruffled her 
silver crest, pressed her garments close 
against her body. Her eyes were full of 
moonlight and I could not read them. 
Then I saw that there were tears. 

I put my arm around her shoulders. 
3he was only a child, an alien child, 
not of my race or breed . . . 

"JonRoss." 

"Yes?" 



STORIES 

"There are so many things I will 

never know." 

It was the first time I had touched 
her. Those curious curls stirred under 
my fingers, warm and alive. The tips of 
her pointed ears were soft as a kitten's. 

"Duani." 

"What?" 

"I don't know . . ." 

I kissed her. She drew back and gave 
me a startled look from those black 
brilliant eyes and suddenly I stopped 
thinking that she was a child and I for- 
got that she was not human and — I 
didn't care. 

"Duani, listen. You don't have to go 
to the Place of Sleep." 

She looked at me, her cloak spread 
out upon the night wind, her hands 
against my chest. 

"There's a whole world out there to 
live in. And if you aren't happy there 
Fit take you to my world, to Earth. 
There isn't any reason why you have to 
die!" 

Stil! she looked at me and did not 
speak. In the streets below the silent 
throngs went by and the towers glowed 
with many colors. Duuni's gaze moved 
slowly to the darkness beyond the wa ^> 
to the barren valley simJ the tostfle 
rocks. 

"No." 

"Why not? Because of Rhul, because 
of all this talk of pride and race?" 

"Because of truth. Corin learned it." 

I 'didn't want to think about Corin. 
"He was alone. You're not. You'd never 
be alone." 

She brought her hands up and laid 
them on my cheeks very gently. "That 
green star, that is your world. Sup- 
pose it were to vanish and you were 
the last of all the men of Earth. Sup- 
pose you lived with me in Shsudakor 
forever — would you not be alone?" 

"It wouldn't matter if I had you." 

She shook hor \ves.d. *'.lt would mat- 
ter. And our two races are as far apart 
as the stars. We would have nothing 
to share between us."- 

Bemeei baring what Rhul had told me 



THE LAST DAYS 

I flared up and said some angry things. 
She let me say them and then she smiled. 
"It is none of that, JonRoss." She 
turned to look out over the city. "This 
is my place and no other. When it is 
gone I must be gone too." 

Quite suddenly I hated Shandakor. 

I didn't sleep much after that. Every 
time Duani left me I was afraid she 
might never come back. Rhul would 
tell me nothing and I didn't dare to 
question him too much. The hours 
rushed by like seconds and Duani was 
happy and I was not. My shackles had 
magnetic locks. I couldn't break them 
and I couldn't cut the chains. 

ONE evening Duani came to me with 
something in her face and in the 
way she moved that told me the truth 
long before I could make her put it 
into words. She clung to me, not want- 
ing to talk, but at last she said, "Today 
there was a casting of lots and the first 
hundred have gone to the Place of 
Sleep." 

"It is the beginning, then." 

She nodded. "Every day there will 
be another hundred until all are gone." 

I couldn't stand it any longer. I thrust 
her away and stood up. "You know 
where the 'keys' are. Get these chains 
off me!" 

She shook her head. "Let us not 
quarrel now, JonRoss. Come. I want 
to walk in the city." 

We had quarreled more than once, 
and fiercely. She would not leave Shan- 
dakor and I couldn't take her out by 
foree as long as I was chained. And I 
was not to be released until everyone 
but Rhul had entered the Place of Sleep 
and the last page of that long history 
had been written. 

I walked with her among the dancers 
and the slaves and the bright-cloaked 
princes. There were no temples in Shan- 
dakor. If they worshipped anything 
it was beauty and to that their whole 
:ity was a shrine. Duani's eyes were 
rapt and there was a remoteness on her 



OF SHANDAKOR 21 

I held her hand and looked at the 
towers of turquoise and cinnabar, the 
pavings of rose quartz and marble, the 
walls of pink and white and deep red 
coral, and to me they were hideous. The 
ghostly crowds, the mockery of life, the 
phantom splendors of the past were 
hideous, a drug, a snare. 

"The faculty of reason 1" I thought 
and saw no reason in any of it. 

I looked up to where the great globe 
turned and turned against the sky, 
keeping these mockeries alive. "Have 
you ever seen the city as it is — without 
the Shadows?" 

"No. I think only Rhul, who is the 
oldest, remembers it that way. I think 
it must have been very lonely. Even 
then there were less than three thou- 
sand of us left." 

It must indeed have been lonely. They 
must have wanted the Shadows as much 
to people the empty streets as to fend 
off the enemies who believed in magic. 

I kept looking at the globe. We walked 
for a long time. And then I said, "I must 
go baek to the tower." 

She smiled at me very tenderly, "Soon 
you will be free of the tower — and of 
these." She touched the chains. "No, 
don't be sad, JonRoss. You will re- 
member ine and Shandakor as one re- 
members a dream." She held up her 
face, that was so lovely and so unlike 
the meaty faces of human women, and 
her eyes were full of sombre lights. I 
kissed her and then I caught her up 
in my arms and carried her back to the 
tower. 

In that room, where the great shaft 
turned, I told her, "I have to tend the 
things below. Go up onto the platform, 
Duani, where you can see all Shandakor. 
I'll be with you soon." 

I don't know whether she had some 
hint of what was in my mind or whether 
it was only the imminence of parting 
that made her look at me as she did. 
I thought she was going to speak but 
she did not, climbing the ladder obrdi- 
ently. I watched her slender golden b^dy 
vanish upward. Then I went into the 



22 STARTLING 

climber below. 

There was a heavy metal bar there 
that was part of a manual control for 
regulating the rate of turn. I took it 
off its pin. Then I closed the simple 
switches on the power plant. I tore out 
all the leads and smashed the connec- 
tions with the bar. I did what damage 
T could to the cogs and the offset shaft. 
I worked very fast Then I went up 
into the main chamber again. The great 
shaft was still turning but slowly, ever 
more slowly. 

There was a cry from above me and 
I saw Duani. I sprang up the ladder, 
thrusting her back onto the platform. 
The globe moved heavily of its own 
momentum. Soon it would stop but the 
•white fires still nickered in the crystal 
rods. I climbed up onto the railing, 
clinging to a strut. The chains on my 
wrists and ankles made it hard but I 
could reach. Duani tried to pull me 
down. I think she was screaming. I 
hung on and smashed the crystal rods 
with the bar, as many as I could. 

There was no more motion, no more 
light. I got down on the platform again 
and dropped the bar.' Duani had for- 
gotten rne. She -was looking at the city. 
The lights of many colors that had 
burned there were burning still but 
they were old and dim, cold embers 
without radiance. The towers of jade 
and turquoise rose up against the little 
moons and they were broken and 
cracked with time and there was no 
glory in them. They were desolate and 
very sad. The night lay clotted around 
their feet. The streets, the plazas and 
the market squares were empty, their 
marble paving blank and bare. The sol- 
diers had gone from the walls of Shan- 
dakor, with their banners and their 
bright mail, and there was no longer 
any movement anywhere within the 



DUANI let out one small voiceless 
cry. And as though in answer to it, 
suddenly from the darkness of the val- 
ley and the slopes beyond there rose 



STORIES 

a thin fierce howling as of wolves. 

"Why?" she whispered. "Why?" She 
turned' to me. Her face was pitiful. 
I caught her to me. 

"I couldn't let you die! Not for 
dreams and visions, nothing. Look, 
Duani. Look at Shandakor." I wanted 
to force her to understand. "Shandakor 
is broken and ugly and forlorn. It is a 
dead city— but you're alive. There are 
many cities but only one life for you." 
Still she looked at me and it wan 
hard to meet her eyes. She said, "We 
knew all that. JonRoss." 

"Duani, vou're a child, you've only a 
child's way of thought. Forget the past 
and think of tomorrow. We can get 
through the barbarians. Corin did. And 
after that ..." 

"And after that you would still be 
human— and I would not." 

From below us in the dim and empty 
streets there came a sound of lamen- 
tation. I tried to hold her but she slipped 
out from between my hands. "And I an', 
glad that you are human," she whis- 
pered. "You will never understand what 
you have done." 

And she was gone before 1 could stop 
her, down into the tower. 

I went after her. Down the endless 
winding stairs with my chains clatter- 
ing between my feet, out into the streets, 
the dark and broken and deserted 
streets of Shandakor. I called her name 
and her golden body went before me, 
fleet and slender, distant and move dis- 
tant. The chains dragged upon my feet 
and the night took her away from me. | 

I stopped. The whelming i " 
rushed smoothly oyer me and I was j 
bitterly afraid of this dark dead Shan- 
dakor that I did not know. I called a 
to Duani and then I began to search for 
her in the shattered shadowed streets. 
1 know now how long it must have been 
before I found her. 

For when I found her, she was v/M 
the others. The last people of Shan- 
dakor, the men and the women, 
women first, were walking silently i 
a long line toward a low flat-roofs 



THE LAST DAYS OF SHANDAKOR 



building that I knew without telling 
v.rs the Place of Sleep. 

They were going to die ami there 
was no pride in their faces now. There 
was a sickness in them, a sickness and 
a hurt in their eyes as they moved 
heavily forward, not looking, not want- 
ing to look at the sordid ancient streets 
that I had stripped of glory, 

"Duani!" I called, and ran forward 
but she did not turn in her place in the 
line. And I saw that she was weeping. 
Rhul turned toward me, and his look 
had a weary contempt that was bitterer 
than a eurse. "Of what use, after all, 
:o kill you now?" 

"But I did this thing! I did it!" 
"You are only human." 
The long line shuffled on and Duani's 
- f cle feet were closer to that final door- 
say. Rhul looked upward at the sky. 
"There is still time before the sunrise. 
Fhe women at least will be spared the 
idignity of spears." 
"Let me go with her!" 
I tried to follow her, to take my place 
in line. And the weapon in Rhul's hand 
moved and there was the pain and I lay 
as Corin had lain while they went 
=:!ently on into the Place of Sleep. 

The barbarians found me when they 
came, still half doubtful, into the city 
Kfter dawn. I think they were afraid 
- me. 1 think they feared me as a 
■ -isard who had somehow destroyed all 
I - folk of Shandakor. 
For they broke my chains and healed 
y wounds and later they even gave me 
' of the loot of Shandakor the only 
- ling T wanted — a bit of porcelain, 
fr.r.ped like the head of a young girl. 
I sit in the Chair that I craved at 
University and my name is written 
on the roll of the discoverers. I am 
- >.ent, I am respectable— T, who mar- 
Bed the glory of a race. 

Why didn't I go after Duani into 
B - Place of Sleep? I could have 
led! 1 could have dragged myself 
wo ss those stones. And I wish to God 
I iad. I wish that I had died with 
HBdakor! • • a' 



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1 HE first thing' Baldwin felt was and Jet the sweet-smelling antidote fill 



the cool pressure of the inhalator 
j-jne against his face. Sluggishly his 
ffeoughts unwound from a soft, sticky 
Earkness. He'd been asleep — no! — 
he'd been drugged ! He breathed deeply 



his lungs. 

Images solidified : first the pretty 
face of the stewardess, then the room. 
A private room, of course, for him . . . 
Memory returned, and with it a cons- 



To have an exact duplicate of yoarseii show up and take 
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7€ STARTLING 

ckmsness of regret. Regret that the 
Ultrabeam Jump was sensually so un- 
pleasant as to make anesthesia neces- 
sary. There was a certain loss of dig- 
nity in being doped and bundled about 
like a piece of luggage . . . Still, a 
day's drugged sleep was a 'small price 
to pay for spanning the gulf between 
the stars. 

"You should lie down and rest awhile, 
Sir," said the stewardess. 

Noting a nervous, hesitant quality to 
her voice, Baldwin looked at her more 
attentively. What was there in her 
manner that made him uneasy? She 
seemed too scared, too unsure of her- 
self . . - 

He iriis not on ike ship. 
The realization brought all his senses 
into sudden focus. This luxurious room 
was not the cramped cabin of an Ultra- 
beam transport. It was more like the 
room he'd had at the Alpha Centaun 
Station, but not the same one. His lug- 
gage was piled neatly in the corner. 
"Why was I moved?" 
"Mr. Carmody's orders, sir." 
"Mr. Carmody's orders!" repeated 
Baldwin in astonishment, "Who does he 
think he — " 

He bit off the words as the girl 
opened a door and dodged past a blue- 
uniformed guard who stood squarely in 
the opening. A golden sunburst on the 
broad chest was marked Baldwin Trans- 
stellar Special Police, and the uniform 
cap said Solar Station. Baldwin knew, 
then, that he'd made the Jump and ar- 
rived at his destination. Carmody must 
have had him moved off the ship like 
any third-class passenger! Why? 

The guard stood a head taller than 
Baldwin, barring his way. "Sony, sir, 
you can't go through just now." 

"Look here! I'm T. J. Baldwin. 1 
own this place. I can fire you and who- 
ever gave the stupid order you're fol- 
lowing." 

"Wait, please, sir—" 
The uniformed man was nervous but 
unyielding. 



STORIES 

BALDWIN tried to push past the 
guard, but was stopped effectively. 
He felt a sudden pang of fear and an 
accelerating of his heart. What could 
have gone wrong? His last feeling be- 
fore anesthesia on the transport had 
been one of well-being, a memory of 
accomplished objectives. The local gov- 
ernment had wanted Transstellar to 
move its Centauri Station a billion miles 
farther out. They'd claimed that Prox- 
ima, the third sun of their system, was 
moving too close to the beam and mak- 
ing operation dangerous. Baldwin, had 
gone, to fight the order and he'd licked 
it, saving the company millions. There 
had been a few short cuts in his victory, 
of course, but nothing that could lead to 
his legitimate arrest. Why, then, was 
he being held prisoner in this room? 

"I wish to see Commander Carmody," 
he said very coldly, stepping back. 

The guard was spared from answer- 
ing by the hurried appearance of a 
beefy, perspiring man in platinum- 
braided uniform. 

The newcomer stopped just inside the 
room, the folds in his chin deepening as 
he saw Baldwin. 

"You're up! I told them not to w"ake 

you." 

"You— Carmody," snapped Baldwin. 
"Tell this idiot to move his muscles out 
of my way. Tell him who I am." 

"I don't know who you are," said Car- 
mody in a peculiar tone. 

Baldwin stared at him. He knew now 
that something was really wrong, that 
the Commander was playing a game 
with roots in something deep. Perhaps 
someone higher up was involved . . 
The thought made him blanch. 

"I don't know who you are," repeated 
Carmody, his brow squeezing out bead? 
of perspiration. "We'd better go to my 
office and talk." 

"You don't have any office," snappt 
Baldwin, thoroughly angry now. "You're 
through, Carmody! I don't care if youj 
iht my cousin!" 

"Come on," said the Commander 



THE INTRUDER 



27 



wearily, taking his arm. "Let's go talk 
it over. If I'm crazy I'll admit it." 

QOMEWHAT calmed, Baldwin followed 
*3 the other through the door. The 
corridor led to a promenade which faced 
the main waiting 1 room of the Station. 
The place had an air of vastness Bald- 
win had always liked. The iridescent 
sky was painted on metal, and the trees 
and buildings hid strengthening beams 
and stanchions, but the illusion of plane- 
tary conditions was good. 

There was excitement on the floor, 
an unnatural fiux. People who should 
have been hurrying about were gath- 
ered in small knots, talking and gesticu- 
lating. Others swarmed around the 
information enclosure, jostling and 
squeezing. Baldwin was bursting with 
impatience by the time they reached the 
Commander's offce. 

"All right, Carmody. I want to know 
what this is all about. You've still got 
a chance if you can talk fast — " 

"Wait, before you say anything 
more," the Commander interrupted. 
There was a note of pleading in his 
voice. "Something's happened. An ac- 
cident. You are Baldwin, aren't you?" 

"You know I am!" 

"All right, I believe you. But so teas 
the other one!" 

"Other one?" 

"You just came from Centauri, didn't 
you? On the six-twenty?" 

"You should know ! You had me 
moved off the ship'" 

Carmody took a deep breath, obvi- 
ously stalling for time. 

"I'll give it to you the way I see it," 
he said finally. "The six-twenty came 
in the first time more than four hours 
ago. You were on board that ship too." 

Baldwin sank into a chair, his mind 
cold, clear, and racing. He thought of 
several possible explanations for Car- 
mody's statement, and discarded them 
one by one. The only answer that made 
any sense was that the Commander was 



"I know how it sounds," said Car- 
mody sullenly. "I know what you're 
thinking. But I tell you there was 
another six-twenty, and you tocre on it. 
I shook your hand. I put you on the 
shuttle boat. I watched it take off and 
head for Earth." 

Baldwin jumped to his feet and 
slammed the palm of his hand on Car- 
mody's desk, hard. "I don't know what 
you're trying to pull. But I think I'll 
fire you just for not being able to think 
of a better story !" 

"Something happened in the Ultra- 
beam," insisted Carmody, jabbing at an 
intercom button. "I'm having my tech- 
nicians look into it now." 

"But there was no other ship! Why 
don't you check with the Centauri 
Station ?" 

'Tm checking," said Carmody wear- 
ily, punching the intercom again. "You 
know it takes two days to get an answer 
back. All we know is two ships came 
in and you were on the second one." 

THE intercom was still silent, but a 
small, thin man came running into 
the room. On seeing Baldwin he came 
to an abrupt halt, jaw hanging. 

"Well, Nelson" snapped Carmody. 

"She's the six-twenty all right, 
Chief," the man said excitedly. "We 
compared her with the first one, and 
they're like two castings from the 
same mold. Even the same specks of 
dust !" 

"But where in blazes did the second 
one come from?" demanded Carmody. 

"There's been some uneasiness about 
Proxima Centauri moving too close to 
our transmission line. You know how 
the Ultrabeam's unstable in a strong 
gravity field — that's why the Stations 
are built so far out — " 

"Tell me, man— what happened?" bel- 
lowed Carmody, banging the desk with 
his fist. 

"We think Proxima's field split the 
beam in two ! Something like a double- 
refracting crystal splits ordinary light. 



28 STARTLING 

Lucky for us one phase lagged the 
other one by four hours, or there would 
have been one helluva bang in the re- 
ceivers '" 

"Are you trying to tell me the second 
ship came out of nothing t" 

"The mass-energy must have come 
from Proxima herself. It's been a known 
theoretical possibility . . ." 

Baldwin listened to the discourse in 
stunned silence. Disbelief gave way to 
a growing horror. His personal advisers 
had assured him Proxima would not 
disturb the beam. If this accident had 
actually happened, heads would roll. 

"Then there's no possibility of — of— 
a trick?" he heard Carmody say. "The 
ships are identical? You've checked on 
the— uh — doubles?" 

"I'm having a pair of them sent here 
now," said the technician. "They're 
absolutely alike: fingerprints, cardio- 
graphs, cephalographs, credentials — 
everything." 

Baldwin struggled between alterna- 
tives of disbelief and fear. He sat with- 
out saying a word or moving a muscle 
until a guard ushered in two men. 

They were like two prints from the 
same negative, with the identical ex- 
pressions of terror on their well-fed 
faces. Their lower lips trembled in the 
same way, and they were nervously 
wringing their pudgy hands. They 
didn't seem to' want to look at one 
another. 

Baldwin was conscious of his own 
dry-throated voice saying, "I'm T. J. 
Baldwin. There's been an accident." 

"I — I've been told," said the two 
simultaneously. "I'd like to get home 
as soon as possible, sir. My wife — " 

The two mouths stopped moving at 
the same instant. The two faces turned 
to one another and blanched. 

Baldwin buried his head in his hands 
and shuddered. 

"Take them away . . . Take them 
away," he moaned. 

After the two had gone, there was 
silence in the office. For a full five min- 



STORIES 

utes Baldwin could bear only the rasp 
of his own breathing. Little by little 
the conviction of truth settled down on 
him. Then there must be another T. J. 
Baldwin, another he, out there in space 
somewhere. That other one was going 
home. 

"What do you think I should do, Mr. 
Baldwin ?" asked Carmody finally. 

"Get me a ship," said Baldwin w. ar- 
ily. "I want to go home." 

rpHE office building looked as though 
■*■ Baldwin Transstellar were trying to 
reach the stairs by piling concrete on 
steel. As Baldwin stared down the two- 
thousand-foot side of it from the win- 
dow of the landing airtaxi, he felt 
jumpy and nervous, strangely unsure 
of himself. 

His office was on the top floor and 
had a private entrance. He walked over 
to it on buttery knees, feeling somehow 
like an intruder as he entered the thick- 
carpeted corridor. The relief he'd need- 
ed and expected didn't come. His nerves 
cried for release, and yet every step 
wound him tighter and tighter. 

The massive door of his office was 
locked. Baldwin placed a trembling 
hand on the scanner key and the door 
opened softly. The man sitting behind 
the desk looked up, startled. 

That man was T. J. Baldwin. 

The shock was somehow even deeper 
than Baldwin had expected. Up to then 
he hadn't really believed that another 
fte existed. He would have been re- 
lieved to find out he'd been tricked, no 
matter what the subterfuge implied. 
But here before him sat the objective 
reality — his own mirror image, solid as 
life. His mind tried to believe his 
senses . . . 

They looked at each other for a min- 
ute in silence, studying each other's 
features in an agony of interest. 

"Glad to see you," said the man be- 
hind the desk finally. "Sit down." 

Why didn't I say that? Why don't 
tliis man and, I talk tor/ether like thorn 



THE INTRUDER 



29 



doubh-d idiots back at the Station? 

The observation gave him comfort. 
Complete and absolute duplication of 
identity was a horrible thing. Perhaps, 
after all, there was a difference. 

"I suppose we should call each other 
something," said the man behind .the 
desk. "How about 'Number One' and 
'Number Two'?" 

"You are 'Number One', I presume," 
said Baldwin. 

The other shrugged with an exagger- 
ated indifference that somewhat irri- 
tated. The desk intercom chose that 
moment to tinkle discreetly. "Mr. Arni- 
bruster would like to see you, sir," said 
the voice of a secretary. 

The man behind the desk made a 
gesture, and after a moment the tall, 
lanky head of Transstellar's Legal De- 
partment stalked in. On seeing the two 
Baldwins he stopped in mid-stride. 

"Do your gawking later," s*ud Num- 
ber One acidly. "I want to know how 
Transstellar stands on this thing." 

Armbruster's jaw closed with a snap. 
His face had paled at first ; now it col- 
ored. His eyes darted from one to the 
other, resting finally on the man behind 
the desk. 

"Not well," he said. "We're responsi- 
ble — there's no way out of that. The 
only question is, how much will it cost? 
I'm having my men run the data into 
our legal analyzer now, to get a pre- 
diction." 

"But can the other passengers sue?" 
insisted Number One. "The originals 
haven't been harmed in any way— I 
should know that! Do the — uh — dupli- 
cates have any legal rights? Are they 
actually people?" 

Baldwin jumped up from his chair. 
Crystal clear, he knew the thought be- 
hind that question. 

"There')! be no discrimination against 
the duplicates!" 

"That's right," said Armbruster, his 
eyes shifting rapidly. "I've already got 
a partial result from our analyzer, and 
the prediction is that the doubles will 



have equal rights." 

"Then we're in trouble," said Number 
One grimly. 

"Yes," agreed the lawyer. "There 
will be questions of property rights, le- 
gal responsibilities— of identity itself." 

"Then we've got to settle with every 
one of them," said Baldwin. "Out of 
court, and fast ! Before they start really 
feeling their losses." 

"You're working on them ?" said 
Number One. 

"Yes," said the lawyer. "But it's no 
use having them sign anything till their 
legal status is established. The Su- 
preme Analyzer in Washington should 
come through with a decision sometime 
today." 

"Then get the machinery moving!" 
snapped Number One. "Soon as the 
Supreme Analyzer's decision comes in, 
report directly to me." 

AFTER Armbruster had gone, Bald- 
win spent five minutes carefully 
avoiding the eyes of Number One. He 
felt sick, collapsed inside. For the first 
time, he was on the outside looking in. 
Another man had taken over his life. 

A chair squeaked. Number One had 
turned to stare out of the window, his 
face immobile in profile. It was the 
face of a stranger. Baldwin tried, but 
c-ouid not think of it as his own. An 
oppressive tension filled the room like 
a stifling mist. 

"Have you seen Lily?" asked Bald- 
win finally. 

"I called her up. I told her it was a 
hoax and she shouldn't pay attention to 
any rumors. She said, 'Golly, that 
makes me a bigamist, doesn't it?' " 

Just like Lily, thought Baldwin . . . 
Sometimes alie doesn't think deeply. He 
ached for her, ail over. He wanted to 
put his head on her shoulder and have 
her stroke his hair. 

"She must know it's true by now," he 
said. "Shouldn't one of us go see her?" 

Number One leaned back and closed 
his eyes. Baldwin knew what he was 



STARTLING STORIES 



had a wife of only three 
ng and pretty, but only 



30 

thinking' 
months - 
one! 

"How about you ?" said Number One, 
bringing the tips of his fingers together 
slowly. "Why don't you go over? I can 
stay here at the office and handle 
things." 

Baldwin laughed a hard, bitter laugh 
like the bark of a dog. He understood 
perfectly. A wife was only a wife, but 
this office was the control center of 
Baldwin Transstellar — the throne 
room of an empire ! It was not an even 
trade 1 

"No," he said coldly. "We'll stay to- 
gether until the legal mess is straight- 
ened out." 

'■'As you wish," said Number One. 
"Armbruster should be coming through 
with a complete prediction any minute. 
Then we'll know what to expect." 

"You realize," said Baldwin carefully, 
"that any decision of the Supreme Ana- 
lyzer applies also to us." 

"Of course. But we can work that out 
later." 

At that moment Armbruster came in. 
His thin face wore a look of relief. 

"It's what we wanted — what we 
had to have," he exulted. 

"Well?" snapped Baldwin, feeling ir- 
ritation when he realized Number One 
had spoken the same word, perfectly 
synchronized. 

"Both of the doubles will be non-legal 
entities as far as possible, until some 
means of permanently telling them 
apart is established. There'll be a time- 
limit, of course — maybe a couple of 
days." 

"What happens after the time-limit?" 
asked Number One. 

"Nothing, if the doubles get together 
before then and get themselves legally 
identified. They'll have to agree _ on. 
some division of assets and responsibil- 
ities, of course." 

"And if they don't ?" prompted 
Baldwin. 

"They'll be identified somehow and 



declared separate legal entities. They'll 
be able to sue one another — and us I" 
"After only two days !" cried Number 
One, jumping up. "Armbruster, you're 
an idiot! That isn't enough time to 
reach any agreements !" 

"I can't dictate to the Analyzer," said 
Armbruster wearily. "I can only ask for 
a ruling. Besides, nothing can be done 
until the doubles can be legally told 
apart That time-limit may be the 
thing that will save us." 
"How?" 

"This whole thing has to go through 
fast! If just one of those doubles real- 
izes the power he has over us, before 
we get him bought off, we're in real 
trouble." 

"What power, Armbruster?" prompt- 
ed Baldwin. 

"Well — " the lawyer had the man- 
ner of a man walking on blistered feet. 
"Every one of the passengers had suf- 
fered a very personal loss due to the 
accident. A loss of identity. If one of 
them enters a suit against us on that 
angle, I think the Analyzer will throw 
the case to a human court. I entered 
the data in our own analyzer, and the 
decision was 'indeterminate'." 
"Indeterminate !" 

Armbruster nodded, his face pale. 
"You know what that means." 

Baldwin knew, and the knowledge 
made him ill. There was a deep-running 
popular feeling that the Ultrabeam 
Transport system should belong to the 
public. Any one of the forty-two pos- 
sible lawsuits, if thrown to a human 
court, could break the company! 

"All right, we'll settle," said Numbei 
One grimly. 

"How much can I offer?" 
"Up to a million apiece," said Numbe* 
One. "If that fails, there are othei 



measures. 
"Other 
softly. 



echoed Baid'v 



LILY'S voice over the phone wa 
as he remembered it. 



THE INTBCDE& 



31 



"Both of yon are coming' home ?" she 
said, a faint edge perceptible in the 
sugar of her voice. "That'll be just 
tu-ice as nice, won't it?" 

"Yes, darling," said Baldwin. "I 
wanted to prepare you for the shock. It 
13 quite a shock, believe me. But the 
three of us have to get together 
before — " 

"Before we become laughing stocks, 
that's what !" cried Lily, and now the 
edge was definitely there, cutting freely. 
"A million peopie have been here today, 
and they're all laughing at me — at us — " 

"There, there," soothed Baldwin. "Af- 
ter all, it isn't as though you'd lost me, 
is it?" 

"Lost you! I don't care if — " 

"Darling, I haven't time to talk now," 
Baldwin cut in. "I'll see you in a half 
::n hour." 

The phone clicked duad. Baldwin kept 
his face expressionless, because Num- 
ber One was looking at him. 

"What did she say?" 

"She's mad. You know Lily." 

Darkness had fallen by the time they 
Took off in the sleek, chauffeur-driven 
sircar. As Baldwin watched the shift- 
ing, varicolored lights of the city fade 
in the distance, he felt utterly home- 
less and lonely. The half-hour ride home 
was a period of strained silence, with 
each man sunk deep in his own thoughts. 

Lily was waiting at the door, dressed 
in a sheer, revealing gown with dia- 
"mond glitters. She'd been crying, 
though her eyes were dry now. 

"No — oh, no!" she gasped as 3he saw 

Her eyes dilated, then closed, and she 
swayed on her feet. Baldwin felt an 
impulse to go to her, to comfort her 
L.r,d whisper .something reassuring into 
her ear. But he was an instant too late, 
because Number One was there exactly 
as he would have been. The sight of the 
two together staggered him. It oc- 
curred to him that little by little the 
.■tlier was moving into sole possession 
"i their common identity. 



Where would it stop? 

If he were no longer T. J. Baldwin, 
who would he be? His mind would not 
support such a hypothesis, even for an 
instant. He teas T. J. Baldwin; he al- 
ways had been and always would be. 
Number One was the intruder, the un- 
known. 

He looked on coldly as Lily sobbed 
tearlessly on the shoulder of Number 
One. They looked ridiculous together, 
somehow — an old rake with a young 
chorus-girl wife that he'd bought. An 
expensive, jeweled thing. He wondered 
if she were really crying, or just act- 
ing as she sometimes did. 

"Break it up!" he said harshly. 

They looked up at him as at a stran- 
ger. But Baldwin looked only at Lily. 
There was no sympathy for him in her 
face, only confusion and fear for her- 
self, And disbelief. Her limited imagi- 
nation could not cope with the facts. 

"I forgot you hadn't met," said Num- 
ber One banally. "Lily, I want you to 
meet your other husband." 

A tremendous weariness weighed 
down on Baldwin. He felt the shrivel- 
ing up of something within him. He 
no longer desired anything but a lonely 
place and sleep. 

"All right," he said finally. "Make 
fools of yourselves if you want to. I'm 
going to bed." 

IpALDWIN awoke, not knowing ex- 
■*-* actly where. He was in bed in a 
large room equipped with every com- 
fort. After awhile he recognized it as 
a guest room in his own house. 

A hasty glance at the ceiling clock 
told him he'd slept late. A double dose 
of sedative had given him a night of 
troubled sleep, punctuated by night- 
mares. 

Me it-as an unwanted guest in his own 
house. Another man hail occi!.)>ml his 
b'-d. 

The thought hammered at him until 
he forced it into the background by a 
■•iiiixir effort of will. Listlessly he dialed 



32 STARTLING 

breakfast on the robot waiter, then sat 
back against the pillows to think. After 
a completely wasted half hour, he picked 
up the phone and got a private connec- 
tion with Armbruster. 

"1 meant to call you/' said the law- 
yer in a low voice. "Have you heard it 
on the videos ?" 

"Heard what?" 

"The Supreme Analyzer's decision! 
Our prediction was close." 

"Hm-m — so there's a time-limit on 
the identification?" 

"It's shorter than we expected. The 
deadline for the voluntary action is 
midnight tonight!" 

"Tonight! Will that be enough time?" 

"I've got half the passengers ready 
to sign off now. We're doubling their 
assets before the accident and adding 
a hundred thousand bonus. The others 
should come around." 

"How about my — uh — the other one? 
Is he there at the office now?" 

"Yes, sir," said Armbruster, almost 
in a whisper. 

"Is it true that neither of us can 
make a move, legally?" 

"As far as the law is concerned, you 
two don't exist until midnight tonight. 
You're supposed to report to the iocal 
court for identification-—" 

"Then we have to work through prox- 
ies of the Company? Through you, 
Armbruster?" 

"Yes, sir — until — " 

"All right, then. Permit fto action on 
the part of the other one. Understand ? 
Settle with the other passengers as 
soon as you can, but accept no orders 
from him." 

Armbruster made a choking sound. 
Immediately afterward, Baldwin heard 
the faint tinkle of an intercom at the 
other end, and hung up. At that mo- 
ment he felt almost as sorry for Arm- 
bruster as for himself. 

He leaned back against tiie pillows, 
closed his eyes and tried to think. 

Should he go to the office, meet Num- 
ber One, and report for legal separation 



STORIES 

of identity? No. That seemed wrong, 

somehow. It didn't solve anything. 

Should he go downstairs and. see 
Lily? A coldness settled over him at 
the thought. He felt a complete lack of 
desire for her. 

Why leave the room at all, then? 
In it he was safe and self-sufficient for 
the time being. And he needed rest. He 
could lock the door from his bedside; 
no one could disturb him . . . Somewhat 
calmed by this thought, he rolled over 
and tried to sleep again. 

BUT sleep would not come . . . Mid- 
night tonight, Armbruster had said 
... It was easy to see why the time 
had been made so short: there was no 
enforc-ible human law that covered ab- 
solutely identical persons ; therefore the 
separation of the doubles had to be ef- 
fected immediately. Baldwin saw the 
justice of it in every case except his 
own— after all, wasn't Transtcllar malt- 
ing good the losses of the others? 

Almost on a subconscious level his 
thoughts worked toward a disturbing 
but inevitable conclusion . . . Transtel- 
lar was compensating the other victims 
of the accident by doubling their assets. 

But he was Transtellar. Who would 
compensate liimf 

With a grim certainty Baldwin knew 
that joint-ownership of the Company 
with his double was impossible. There 
was no such thing as accepting the loss 
of one's possessions, the setback of all 
one's life's aims, without a struggle. 
The only acceptable solution was win- 
ner take all. 

Yet, how could he possibly win? By 
what trick, legal or otherwise, could he 
obtain undisputed possession of his own 
property, a right to live his own life? 
In this game the loser would always 
have a countermove, for he would then 
be Hie victim of uncompensated losses 
and euithi-tiiie! It was an insoluble stale- 
mate, unless — 

He was suddenly wide awake, shiver- 
ing. A very disturbing possibility be- 



THE INTRUDER 



gan to eat its way into his brain. An 
unpleasant thought, involving: a nause- 
ating self-revelation. His mind recoiled 
at it, but he couldn't ignore it. 

He looked about the room with new 
eyes now. It was still a refuge, but not 
an impregnable one. The window faced 
open air ; a locked door could be forced 
. . . Hurriedly he got up and started 
dressing. 

The house was silent, and he met no 
one on his way to the basement level. 
This was the crucial step. If he were 
first, if he hadn't been anticipated, he 
had a good chance! 

The door of the gun-room opened 
silently under his hand, revealing the 
rows of sleek hunting rifles he'd saved 
from younger days. Neatly stacked on 
the shelves were sealed cases of ammu- 
nition. 

He closed the door and started break- 
ing the guns, trying to make as little 
noise as possible. When the once-treas- 
ured weapons were twisted and scat- 
tered, he took the one he'd set aside 
and filled its magazine with clean, oily- 
smelling- cartridges. Only then did the 
frantic haste of his motions abate. 

So far the odds were with him ! 

His exultation was .short-lived when 
he realized that Number One would 
know he'd do this . . . It.w&3 like a 
problem in infinite regresses, like the 
diminishing images in a hall of mirrors. 
Each of them could guess the other's 
probable course of action, and could 
Eiodify his own. plans accordingly. The 
main question was, where to stop modi- 
iving and when to act? 

T5ACK in the locked sanctuary of the 
-*-* guest room, he put the gun within 
-nsy reach and sat down to wait, The 
inaction want against his nature. But 
the first move had to come from out- 
side — the cards were laid out that way. 
He felt safer now, able to think more 
dearly . . . He'd always been able to 
solve his problems with cold, ruthless 
logic. It had been his ruthlessness as 



33 



much as his skill at financial manipu- 
lations that had enabled him to run a 
small inherited fortune up to a control- 
ling interest in the Transtellar Corpora- 
tion . . . All that seemed long ago and 
far away now. 

But it explained why he, T. J. Bald- 
win, was sitting here in a locked room 
with a loaded gun! 

Daylight deepened into dusk, and 
still he waited. His head ached with a 
pounding agony; his stomach howled 
its hunger — for food that he could ob- 
tain at the touch of a button, but which 
he didn't dare eat! A hundred times 
he. regretted having decided to wait, 
but it was the only course left to him 
now . . . 

At seven-thirty Lily called him. She ' 
sounded frightened. 
. "What are you doing up there?" 

"Who told you to ask?" 

"He — he hasn't come home yet. I 
can't reach him at the office. I—" 

"You can tell him I'm going out 
now !" said Baldwin harshly, and hung 
up. 

Was it a trick? Had someone put her 
up to catling him, to make sure he was 
there? 

He was certain of only one thing: ha 
had to get out of that room ! 

Cold sweat beaded on his forehead, 
and the heavy gun stuck clammily to 
his palms as he opened the door. The 
hallway was brightly lighted and empty- 
It took all the strength he could mus- 
ter in his legs to advance into it. There 
were four other rooms opening onto 
the hall, and an elevator as well as two 
staircases. Baldwin found the switch 
that darkened the corridor, then went 
soundlessly to a window at one end. He 
leaned against the cold glass, shivering. 

The sky was overcast, reflecting redly 
the lights of the city in the distance. 
Air traffic moved like swirls of sparks 
as commuters drove homeward from the 
city. On the shadowy lawn below, noth- 
ing moved. 

Ten-thh-ty! The luminous dial of 



34 



STARTLING STORIES 



Baldwin's watch stared mockingly at 
him in the darkness. Why was nothing 
happening? The inaction was sapping 
his strength, leaving him helpless. Yet 
he had to wait. The other must know 
that midnight was too late for both 
of them . . . 

It was past eleven when he heard 
the sound, a soft rushing as of bat 
wings beating in the darkness. An air- 



TBERE were no lights, but the sound 
came nearer from above and faded 
out on the other side of the house. 
Cursing himself for a fool, Baldwin ran 
to the window at the other end of the 
corridor. There he could see the metal- 
lic gleam of the car on the lawn below, 
but nothing else. He fought back an 
impulse to fire blindly into the shadows. 

What now? He'd been outguessed 
once — he should have known the aircar 
wouldn't come in the usual way. A 
dozen ways in which he could be trapped 
suddenly occurred to him. 

The decision to act gave him new 
strength. His mind worked rapidly, 
trying to probe the end of the infinite 
regress, to anticipate the next move . . . 

He was halfway down a service stair- 
way, moving cautiously in the pitch 
darkness, when he heard the gentle 
opening and closing of a door below 
him. 

He stood frozen to the spot, making 
no sound. The man at the bottom of the 
stair had a gun. There was no doubt- 
ing the identity of their conclusions 
now. The same mental process had 
brought them to the same spot in time 
and space. 

Only, tMs time he, was first! 

Tensely he waited. The darkness was 
impenetrable, but the cautious footsteps 
came nearer ... He could almost feel 
the warmth of the other's body when he 
fired. 

The flash of the gun disclosed the 
other's startled face; the gunsound was 
like a snarl of rage. Baldwin held the 



trigger back for continuous firing until 
the figure before him melted away. He 
followed its clumping progress down 
the stairs, firing until the gun was 
empty. 

He stood reeling for awhile in the 
darkness. Then, somehow, his hand 
found the light switch, and the soft, 
opalescent glow came on without a 
sound. 

A trail of blood on the stair led his 
eyes to a crumpled figure at the bot- 
tom. Already the body was cooling in 
death, the open-eyed face staring up- 
ward . . . 

Baldwin's face. 

For an interminable time he stood 
there. Something inside him twisted 
and writhed and finally solidified; and 
then he began to cringe. 

It was his own face in death . . . That 
pitiful heap at the bottom of the stair 
was fc«. 

What his mind had refused to believe 
while the other was an active enemy 
to be fought, it now accepted in a flood. 
The brain behind that death-mask had 
carried his ideas, his aspirations. His 
own life, too, could end like this and 
would look like this to an outsider. 

His heart pounded against his ribs as 
if trying to add its contents to the 
widening pool at his feet. With a super- 
human effort he tore himself loose from 
the incredible fascination of the thing 
on the floor. He was only vaguely con- 
scious of other people about, of screams 
... He ran 'out onto the cool grass of 
the lawn, stumbled and fell, and didn't 
have the strength to rise again. 

Sometime later the police found him 
there, talking to himself in the darkness. 

"fOLD-BLOODED murder !" the voice 
V* boomed. "This man so hated and 
feared his own motives that he com- 
mitted murder rather than face him- 
self! Was ever a crime so clearly pre- 
meditated — so deserving of punish- 
ment ?" 

Baldwin woke with a start, and knew 



THE INTRUDER 



35 



he had been dreaming again. His body 
was stiff, the bedclothes soaked with 
perspiration. 

He was in his own bed again. The 
doctors had told him he was all right. 
Lily had cried over him and stroked 
his hair, sobbing, "Poor dear, poor 
dear." Even the police guard outside 
his door had oozed unctuous respect. 

There was no doubt about it: he was 
once more the one and only T. J. 
Baldwin. 

He pronounced the name to himself 
with a spasm of self-loathing. If only 
he could be rid of the nightmare ! The 
accusing voice that spoke out of a dead 
face that was like his own . . . 

Fighting an overwhelming weariness, 
he rolled over in bed and pushed the 
buzzer. Armbruster came in almost 
immediately; he had been waiting out- 
side the door for over an hour. 

"Well?" snapped Baldwin. 

"I couldn't do anything," said the 
pale-faced lawyer. "You're going to be 
indicted for murder!" 



"But the time-limit wasn't up I You 

said that legally the two of us didn't 
exist — " 

"Unless certain measures were tak- 
en," Armbruster said wearily. "Well, 
he took them ... He went and got him- 
self identified !" 

"DALDWIN closed his eyes. Of course! 
-*-* That was what he would have done 
in the other's place, if he had thought of 
it . . . Suddenly he could see how it 
had happened. 

"You talked him into it, Armbruster." 

"I told you, too — " 

"AH right," said Baldwin, sighing al- 
most with relief at his decision. "Go 
away." 

"But we have to — " 

"Get out!" 

After Armbruster had gone, he 
pushed the button that locked the door. 
He swallowed the sedative tablets one 
by one until he lost count. His last 
thought was an almost vengeful sense 
of justice. 



STOP SMOKING 



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Tame Me this Beast 




hj ROBERT MOOHE WILLIAMS 



Professor Shalei thought his 
expeiiment would tree 
humanity— but was he 
creating a tool /or autocrats? 



fN the compound Professor Shaler 
was beating the Dyak, Tom, again. 
Kirkendall could hear the sharp spat of 
the lash and Shaler's voice telling Tom 
that he -was a pig and the son of a pig. 
Since the Dyak was a Mohammedan 



STARTLING STOCKS 



this business of being called a pig stung 
much harder than the whip. 

Kirkendall walked over to the com- 
pound and stood looking between the 
posts. The Maek leopard came as close 
to him as her chain permitted, making 
mewing sounds. He reached down and 
scratched her ears. She purred in de- 
light. Ke could remember when Gsrson 
had brought her here, a spitting chunk 
of savage f ary. Now she was completely 
tame. 

Shaler'a magic, Kirkendall thought. 
He knew there was no magic involved 
in the domestication of the leopard, that 
her tameness was a scientific achieve- 
ment of the highest order. But he never 
could quite get out of his mind the feel- 
ing that these results were pure magic. 
Inside the compound he could see more 
of the same, the Dyak standing with his 
hands across his chest, taking a whip- 
ping he had done nothing to deserve and 
which, by all the rules of human reac- 
tions, he should resent violently. 

The fact that he did not resent the 
whipping, that he did not respond emo- 
tionally to it at all, was all the more 
remarkable in view of the additional fact 
that this same Dyak had not many 
months past been a jungle wild man, 
his most important occupation the tak- 
ing and curing of certain unusual tro- 
phies which had given his tribe the 
name of headhunters. 

Shaler's magic again, Kirkendall 
thought. He pushed open the no longer 
locked gate of the compound and en- 
tered. Shaler noticed him. The lash of 
the whip flicked out and cracked across 
his arm and naked back. Unlike the 
Dyak, Kirkendall reacted — instantly. 

"Damn you, Shaler!" Kirkendall's fist 
lashed out and connected with Shaler's 
chin. The little scientist stumbled back- 
ward across the compound and fell. He 
sat up, rubbed his jaw and grinned. 
"Well done, Kirky." 

NOT until then did Kirkendall fully 
realize the purpose in Shaler's 
mind when the little man struck him 



with the whip. "You were using me as 
a conti'olf" he gasped. "I'm sorry." he 
apologized. "I reacted before I thought," 
"You did exactly what I wanted you 
to do," Shaler answered. He got to his 
feet, Kirkendall helping him, wiggle ! 
his jaw to make certain It was not bro- 
ken, glanced at the Dyak. Tom had 
shown no interest in the fact that Shaler 
had been struck. No grunt of satisfac- 
tion had escaped him when his tormen- 
tor had been knocked down. For all the 
response he showed, white men, in his 
opinion, customarily greeted each other 
with a lash from a whip— to which the 
proper response was a blow from a fist 

"Kirky, it begins to look as if we 
have done what we set out to do," Shaler 
said. Satisfaction sounded in his voice. 
The "we" was pure altruism. The discov- 
ery brought to perfection here was his 
own invention. Kirkendall, as his assist- 
ant, had had no part in it except to help 
with the heavy work, nov any real un- 
derstanding of the process. 

The gun at Kirkendall's hip revealed 
his biggest job, that of guard and pro- 
tector against the dangers of the sur- 
rounding jungle. Shaler had hired Kirk- 
endall before they left the United States, 
selecting him with an eye toward his 
courage a3 his war record against the 
Japanese among these jungle islands re- 
vealed. 

Furthermore extensive tests had re- 
veaied Kirkendall as possessed of a dog- 
ged loyalty and an IQ that did not spurt 
into the upward regions of the scale. 
Not that Kirkendall was stupid — far 
from it. He was above average in intelli- 
gence but he was no genius. 

They had come to the island together. 
Shaler had hived a gang of natives from 
a neighboring island to hack the clear- 
ing out of the jungle and to erect the 
necessary huts and the compound. Then 
the natives had been sent home and 
Shaler, with Kirkendall's assistance, 
had begun his real work. 

The two were the only white men on 
this lonely rain-soaked sun-drenched 
jungle island of the South Pacific. There 



TA3H 

were two natives, Tom and his twin 
brother Freddie, along with one black 
leopard, all brought here by the trader, 
Garson, and sold to Shale; tor the high- 
est price the trader thought the traOic 
would bear. 

The experiment in progress here on 
this island was what Jerome Shaler 
called an attempt to domesticate earths 
last great wild animal. The dog, the 
horse, the pig, the elephant, the camel 
and the cow were ail domesticated in 
prehistoric times. 

Tamed, for uncounted centuries they 
have borne man's burdens, given him 
food, clothing, loyal co:"!Vr::;raonship. But 
Earth's last great wild animal has never 
been tamed— man himself. Civilization 
has never done more than lay a thin 
veneer over him. 

Under this veneer the great beast him- 
self is alwEiys visible, quick to recent a 
fancied wrong and hot to avenge it in 
blood, quick to sniff out a bargain, eager 
to buy cheap and to sell deaf, quick to 
grab a gun, a knife, a poisoned spear or 
an atom bomb and rash forth to hunt 
his greatest enemy, his own kind. 

Jerome Shaler, a iittle man in a faded 
aun helmet, dirty white pants, no shirt 
and no hair on his chest, one of the 
world's great authorities on the func- 
:ioning of the human nervous system, 
proposed to change all this. It was his 
simple purpose to domesticate the beast 
of the city. By profession he was a psy- 
chologist, a topnotch man in his held. 
By inclination he was a dreamer. 

This was his dream, the abolition of 
war, of political parties and politicians, 
•f fascism, communism and all other 
forms of totalitarianism, the elimination 
of poverty, of hunger and of want, 
-.he re-creation of Eden, Paradise, the 
Happy Isles, the building of a world 
where all men have enough and none 
wo little and none too much. 
I In short, Shaier proposed to take the 
iggrandizing impulse out of the human 
race, the urge that leads men to try to 
■ecumulate more than they can use 
. .rrmselves. in addition, he proposed to 



Tin:-.; ss&st 39 

modify the aggressive ego drives of the 
individual, to still the whisper that men 
have been hearing since the beginning 
of time, "What's in it for me?" 

He was a little man but his dream 
was no little thing. 

How did he plan to accomplish his 
dream? He planned to short-circuit the 
aggrandizing- and aggressive impulses 
within the brain itself. His dream 
Sprang out of the observation that in 
the animal world the male wolf does not 
fight his mate, the dog does not snap at 
the bitch, the stallion does not shrill his 
challenge to the mare. Between the sexes 
some force seems to hold in check the 
aggressive drives of the male. This was 
Shaler's starting point. 

If the males could be kept from fight- 
ing the females, why couldn't they be 
kept from fighting each other? He be- 
lieved it could be done. The aggressive 
impulses rising within the primitive 
brain he proposed to short-circuit so 
that they were never reflected in hostile 
actions. 

The method he used to accomplish this 
short-circuiting was his own closely- 
guarded secret but Kirkendall knew that 
it involved some subtle drug. Their pur- 
pose here on this island was to prove 
what this drug would do under the most 
difficult circumstances, using wild ani- 
mals and headhunting savages as sub- 
jects. 

When the tests were complete Shaler 
planned to begin using his drug in the 
water supply systems of the cities of 
the United States. The drug was taste- 
less and only the finest chemical analysis 
would reveal its presence. For obvious 
reasons he intended that no one should 
ever know the drug had gone into the 
water supply systems. 

WORKING in secret Shaler was 
trying to save a world. The effect 
he hoped to achieve would be a gradual 
day-to-day lessening of the conflict be- 
tween individuals, Years after it had 
happened somebody might discover that 
something H&d happened, that the world 



STARTLING STORIES 



mother 



40 

had somehow become again 

Eden. 

But would the drug work? kirkendall 
considered Tom, standing in the hot son 
in the middle of the compound, the whip 
marks visible as red streaks on his back. 
If Shaler could turn a headlnmter into 
a man who would submit to the whip, 
■hen Shaler eould indeed work wonders. 
At the thought Kirkendall felt his pulses 
quicken. He was a man who had seen 
miracles. The whine of the black leopard 
outside the compound made him even 
more aware of the true nature of that 
miracle. 

"Go rest now, Tom," Shaler spoke. 
The native stood staring at then: as if 
he had not heard. Shaler had to speak 
again before the native moved submis- 
sively toward the hut. The gate was no 
longer locked and he could leave at any 
time he chose. 

Outside was the jungle, his native 
habitat. He could slip into that jungle 
and follow again his old wild life, fish- 
ing on the reefs, hunting in the green 
tangle that reached with relentless fin- 
gers toward the little clearing. The point 
was— he did not choose to leave. Not 
even the whip could drive him away. 

KIRKENDALL and Shaler pushed 
open the gate and stepped outside 
the compound. From the strip of jungle 
less than forty yards away a long slen- 
der object flashed toward them, passed 
between them and thudded home into 
the log fence behind them— a spear. 
Kirkendall snatched the revolver from 
his hip and fired three smoking shots at 
the spot from which the spear had come 
with no observable result. 

Shaler grinned. "Freddie's getting 
better," he said. 

Freddie was Tom's twin brother. 
Whereas Tom had been treated with 
Shaler's drug, Freddie had been left 
what he was originally, a savage. He 
* was the control, the individual left un- 
tested for purposes of comparison. 

Turned loose, Freddie had dived head- 
first into the jungle, from which he 



planned and plotted his vengeance on 
the men who had brought him here. 
Probably nothing on Earth would have 
pleased Freddie more than the sight of 
Shaler's head drying nicely over a slow 
fire. 

"That son-of-a-gun will kill us yet!" 
Kirkendall burst out. Freddie's ability 
with a spear or a knife or a sliver of 
poisoned bamboo thrust upward in a 
path so that the point was exactly where 
it would hit a careless walker in the leg 
was getting on the assistant's nerves. 

"I've ffot you to keep him from pot- 
ting us like sitting ducks," Shaler an- 
swered. Unaffected, he pulled the spear 
from the logs, examined the point. 
"Freddie has found a piece of iron some- 
where and whetted it to a point on a 
rock," he said. "Ingenious devils, these 
natives." 

"You sound pleased about him," Kirk- 
endall complained. 

Shaler's answer was another grin. In 
fact he was pleased. He liked Freddie. 
The native was an honest killer, S'i ex- 
ample of man in his natural state. The 
fact that Freddie has just tried to kill 
him and had almost succeeded in the 
attempt caused Shaler no concern. What 
else could you expect from a head-hunt- 
er? Eesides, Freddie went a long way 
toward proving the success of his exper- 
iment. 

To Jerome Shaler nothing else mat- 
tered. This experiment was the culmina- 
tion of his life's work, of years of pa- 
tient research, and the money that had 
gone into it represented his life's sav- 
ings. He poked the handle of the spear 
toward the black leopard, pushing it 
hard against her, smiled when her only 
response was to move away from the 
irritation. 

"What comes next?" Kirkendall ques- 
tioned. 

"Next?" Shaler paused, thought care- 
fully. "I'd like to have at least one more 
native, preferably two, for testing. If 
that is successful, next comes — " His 
eyes went appraisingly over the six-foot 
bulk of his assistant. 



TAME ME 

"You don't mean me?" Kirkendall 
said hastily. 

Shaler nodded. 

"But th?t wasn't part of our con- 
tract." 

"I know it wasn't and you don't have 
to participate if you do not wish to. I 
don't mean you alone, I mean both of 

OS." 

"Oh," Kirkendall said. This was dif- 
ferent, this was something that reqL;u\-d 
thinking. 

In the back of his mind a voice 
whispered, "What's in it for you?" 

"We will have to test the response of 
several people conditioned by civilized 
life," Shaler continued. ''Both of us, of 
course — presuming you agre e— will 
check the results day by day, perhaps 
hour by hour. I don't want to make any 
mistakes and most certainly I do not 
wish to do you any harm." 

"Well — " Kirkendall hesitated. "What 
would I get out of it? I mean—" 

"Get out of it':'" Shaler was astonished 
as if this question had never occurred 
zo him. "If nothing else— peace, a serene 
outlook, a freedom from the day-to-day 
hates and hostilities that arise in all of 
us and which create the conflicts that 
warp us from our true nature." 

"I'll have to think about it," Kirken- 
dall said. He was shocked, perhaps a 
little frightened. Supposing the experi- 
ment didn't work on him? What then? 
And if it did work — "What's in it for 
you?" the voice whispered in the back 
of his mind. "You don't need an answer 
right away?" he said. 

"Of course not," Shaler answered 
promptly. 

"Well — " Out at the entrance to the 
lagoon, visible from this slight elevation, 
a moving object caught his eye. He 
■eked at it for several seconds before 
Hi realized that he was seeing it or what 
.: was. A tramp schooner moved there. 
'"Hello," he said. "Garson's back." 

"TVhere 1 Oh,' ' Shaler said. "Good. 
He's probably got some more specimens 
for us." 

While they watched the schooner came 



THIS BEAST 4i 

to anchor and a boat put out for the 
sandy beach. 

G ARSON was a great dough-belly of 
a man with drooping mustache 
and the furtive eyes of a wary rat. Clad 
in dirty whites, gun m the holster at 
his hip almost touching the floor, he sat 
on a folding camp stool and drank raw 
rum and talked evasively to Shaler. 

Kirkendall sat at the end of the table 
and listened. It was obvious to him that 
Garson was curious about the activity 
here in this clearing in the rain forest. 
Or perhaps curious was too mild a word, 

"How are things coming with you, 
Professor Shaler?" 

"So-so," Shaler answered. 

Garson spat tobacco at a beetle crawl- 
ing on the floor. "What did you say was 
the nature of your work here?" he 
asked. 

"I'm an anthropologist," Shaler an- 
swered. 

"Anthro— what ?" 

"A student of men," Shaler explained. 
He took a cigarette from the long flat 
case he always carried, offered one to 
the trader, who shook his head. "We are 
studying the reactions of primitive peo- 
ples to certain — ah — stimuli," he con- 
tinued. 

"Oh," Garson said heavily. His eyes 
went furtively around the hut, rested for 
a moment on the metal trunk under 
Shaler's cot, then looked quickly away. 
"Well, every man to his own trade, I 
always say, and the devil for all." He 
laughed. "I have some more merchandise 
for you," 

"Good. What do you have?" Since 
merchandise in this case meant wild 
animals or wilder humans Shaler was 
instantly interested. 

"A coupie of blacks from Borneo," 
Garson answered. "I've got them on the 
ship." He gestured toward the lagoon. 

"Go see if they will serve our purpose, 
Kirk." Shaler spoke. 

"Sure," Kirkendall answered. He was 
glad to get away. The presence of Gar- 
son always irritated Mm. The fellow was 



42 STARTLING 

actually a slave trader, carrying on a 
secret and illegal traffic among the 
islands. 

As Kirkendall left the hut, Garson 
was saying, "These are extra special 
specimens, professor. Til have to have 
a thousand dollars apiece for them, in 
gold of course." 

The trader always demanded gold for 
his merchandise. No other form of cur- 
rency was acceptable to him. In this sec- 
lion of the world gold was the only satis- 
factory medium of exchange. With it 
you could buy what you wanted, includ- 
ing copra, pearls, girls and men. In the 
trunk under his cot Shaler had almost 
eight thousand dollars in gold coin. 

Moving along the path toward the 
beach Kirkendall saw that a boat with 
two men was waiting there. The men 
he vaguely remembered as being mem- 
bers of Garson's crew. They nodded to 
him as he came near. 

"Mr. Garson said I was to inspect the 
— ah — merchandise," he said. 

They grinned. "Yes, sir, cap'n. Step 
right in the boat, cap'n." 

As he stepped into the boat there 
came, from the direction of the clearing 
the sudden hard explosion of a gun. 

Kirkendall jerked around to stare to- 
ward the source of the sound. 

As he turned, one of the men hit him 
across the back of the head with a short 
length of rubber hoiie that had been filled 
with lead. Without a sound, he pitched 
forward out of the boat and fell face 
downward in the sand of the beach. 

How long he was unconscious he did 
not know but eventually he became 
aware of sharp popping sounds. Rolling 
over and sitting up he pried the sand 
out of his eyes. The boat was still on 
the beach but the two men were gone. 
From the path that led upward to the 
clearing there came the sharp explosion 
of a gun, which he vaguely recognized 
as the popping sound that had dragged 
him back to consciousness. 

The gunshot was not repeated. Com- 
ing down the path toward him were 
three men, Garson and two of the trad- 



STOK1ES 

er's crew. They saw him. One flung up 
what he thought was a hand to point 
at him. Only when the pointing hand 
suddenly exploded in smoke and a bullet 
whistled past him did he realize they 
were shooting at him. He dropped flat, 
reached for the gun in his own holster. 
His groping fingers found nothing. 

After they had knocked him out the 
two men had gone up the trail to help 
Garson but they had taken the precau- 
tion of taking his gun with them. 

He got to his feet, raced toward the | 
jungle. Bullets whistled around his ears 
as he dived headfirst into the protection 
of the green tangle. 

WHEN Kirkendall left the hut, Gar- 
son had asked the one question 
that he really wanted answered. "Of 
course, you can pay in gold ?" 

"Certainly," Shaler answered, "if the 
merchandise is satisfactory." 

"Ah," Garson said. "Who is that com- 
ing up the path?" He glanced through 
the opening toward the beach. 

Shaler turned to look. As he turned. 
Garson shot him in the head. Fortunate- 
ly the bullet did not penetrate the brain 
but it gouged a groove across the top of 
the skull and knocked Shaler flat on his 
face, completely unconscious. 

When he began to recover conscious- 
ness the first dazed thought in his mind 
was wonder at what had hit him. He 
was aware that he was hurt, that he 
must be very quiet or he would be hurt 
worse. From somewhere near him came 
heavy pounding sounds. Eventually, 
when he felt he could open his eyes & 
slit, he saw Garson in the act of beating i 
the lock off the metal trunk that had 
served him as a safe. 

He knew then that the trader had 
either shot him or slugged him. Garsor. 
was following a pattern as old as human 
history- Two white men and eight thou- 
sand dollars in gold on a lonely desert 
island. Mix in a slave-trading renegaa, 
and there was only one answer. Too late 
Shaler saw the inevitability of the pat- 
tern he had established here. 



TAME ME THIS BEAST 



43 



He was ■working to break up this 
identical pattern but his ultimate goal 
was ten thousand miles away in the 
United States. Maybe it was ten thou- 
sand years away too. Lying on the floor 
of that hut, watching Garson greedily 
pouring gold pieces into a stout canvas 
bag, Shaler had a premonition that the 
achievement of his goal was even far- 
ther than ten thousand years away. 

When Garson finished sacking the 
gold he began feverishly to search the 
hut. The trader had never been satisfied 
with Shaler's explanation of their pres- 
ence here. He apparently suspected there 
was something else of value hidden 
somewhere and was trying to find it. 

Well, there was something else of 
value, three sheets of paper covered with 
formulae and explanations, but they 
were carefully hidden in the back of 
Shaler's cigarette case, They contained 
the secret of Shaler's drug for short- 
circuiting the aggrandizing and aggres- 
sive impulses of the human race. 

Garson, with a look at Shaler, lifted 
the canvas sack and left the hut. Out- 
side Shaler could bear the trader con- 
tinuing his search. Shaler lifted himself 
on his hands, managed to sit up. A wave 
of giddy nausea swept over him at the 
movement. 

Tenderly he explored the gash in his 
skull. 

When the giddiness passed he tried to 
get to his i'eet, found his strength was 
not equal to the task. 

"If I can't walk I'll crawl," he 
thought. With slow movement but with 
desperate purpose he began to crawl 
toward the cot. Under the pillow was a 
.45 Colt automatic. If he could get his 
hands on the gun lie intended to use it. 

Until now, he had not known that he 
was capable of such furious hatred. He 
could kill Garson now and never feel a 
qualm of conscience about it afterwards. 
But the question was — could he kill Gar- 
son ? He did not know but when he got 
the Colt in his hands he knew he could 
try. 

The trader had ftuished searching and 



was moving dow-n the path toward the 
lagoon when Shaler, holding the Colt in 
both hands, came stumbling out of the 
hut and started shooting at him. 

Garson snapped a fast shot behind 
him, then ran. His men were coming up 
the path toward him. Shaler followed 
him. 

For a few moments the quiet of the 
jungle was broken by blasts of gunfire. 
When the thunder stopped Shaler was 
down on the path and Garson and his 
two men were hurrying toward the boat 
that would carry them out to the schoon- 
er and thence to some place of refuge 
where no questions were ever asked 
about the origin of a man's wealth. 

Shaler had a bullet through his left 
shoulder. He had another bullet through 
his left leg. The bone was broken and 
he could not walk. But he could crawl. 
And crawl he did. There was something 
indomitable about the little man. Leav- 
ing a b'ail of blood behind him he 
crawled all the desperate quarter of a 
mile back to the little clearing that had 
been hacked from the jungle growth. 

"Kirk!" he called. His dazed mind did 
not recall that Kirkendall was not here. 
Only when the assistant did not answer 
him did he realize that he would have 
to do everything himself. 

In the supply hut, locked in moisture 
and bug-proof metal lockers on the top 
shelf, were medical supplies, opiates to 
dull the jagging streaks of fire-hot pain 
screaming through his broken leg, sulfa 
to sprinkle on his wounds, penicillin to 
stop the infection that he knew would 
shortly be raging through his body. 
Last of all there were bandages, splints 
to hold a broken bone in place while it 
healed. 

He would be laid up for weeks but 
with the modern wonder drugs to stop 
infection and with proper care he would 
become a well man again. The affair 
with Garson would be only a strange 
interlude, a brief moment when the old 
drives of the human race had held sway. 
But would hold sway no longer once he 
got his magic drug into action ! 



44 STARTLING 

The urge to live was a pounding 
rhythm in his body. He knew he could 
apply the medicine himself, perhaps he 
could even apply the splints. 

"Kirkendall !" he called again. Where 
was the man, he wondered fretfully. Not 
until he had called a dozen times did he 
realize that his assistant was not here. 

AT the cost of breath-taking agony 
he crawled to the supply hut, man- 
aged to push open the door, to wriggle 
his way inside. As he saw what faced 
him here he tasted the full meaning of 
complete despair. 

The medicine boxes were on the top 
shelf. No matter how hard he tried there 
was simply no way he could reach them 
without help. If they had been back in 
the United States they could not have 
been farther out of his reach. 

He lay there on the dirt floor of the 
hut and cursed Garson and Kirkendall 
and the whole human race. Then, as the 
door was pushed open again, and a face 
peered inside, he stopped cursing. 

Tom stood there. 

"Tom, help me." 

The Dyak squatted down beside him, 
grinned like a friendly but slightly stu- 
pid ape. 

Shaler gestured toward the medicines. 
"Boxes help longside me." 

Tom made no move toward the boxes. 
It was not that he did not understand — 
he knew well enough what was wanted 
of him — it was simply that the treat- 
ment he had received and which had 
short-circuited all his aggressive and 
hostile impulses had also short-circuited 
all generous impulses too. 

"Me hurt bad," Shaler said. 

Tom shrugged. The whip had demon- 
strated his indifference to pain in him- 
self. 

He was equally indifferent to pain 
in somebody else. If Shaler was suffer- 
ing, so what? 

Tom wasn't getting even with the 
man who had whipped him. He was in- 
different to revenge, as indifferent as 
he was to pain, to suffering, to death 



STORIES 

itself. He was a docile, a timed, but a 
mindless creature. He was a slave. 

As he realized the truth there on the 
dirt floor of the hut, with the slow drip 
of his own blood turning the dirt to mud, 
Jerome Shaler came face to face with 
his failure to domesticate earth's last 
great wild animal. He hadn't doue the 
job — he had failed. 

Perhaps the job could be done— he did 
not know about that — but he knew he 
had not done it. He saw also the danger 
of the treatment he had devised. All he 
had done was to create a method of mak- 
ing a nation of docile super-slaves. 

He tried to get the cigarette case out 
of his pocket in a last depurate effort to 
correct the mistake he had made. Not 
that anything could be done to change 
the formulae. All that could be done now 
was to destroy them. They were a source 
of danger potentially greater than the 
atom bomb. 

Hours later, when Kirkendall finally 
got back to the clearing and found him, 
he was still trying to get the cigarette 
case out of his pocket. 

"The cigarette ease — burn it, Kirk," 
he whispered. 

It was his last effort to undo his mis- 
take. As he spoke he died. 

Kirkendall found the sheets of paper 
in the back of the ease. All night long 
he studied the formulae, the ^tep-by- 
step process in the distillation of the 
drug Shaler had used on Tom. The proc- 
ess was clear — too clear. He could un- 
derstand it. 

He saw quite clearly the error Shaler 
had made, that the little psychologist 
had created a method of making slaves 
instead of free men. All night long a still 
small voice whispered to him, ''Here's 
your big chance." 

To give him credit he tried to fight 
against that voice but little by little it 
grew stronger. "You can be a king," it 
whispered. "You can start with a sing's 
little town somewhere, you can make 
yourself a boss. Slowly and steadily you 
car. grow bigger. Pretty soon you win ho 
boss of a count-.-, then of a state, then—" 



TAME ME THIS BEAST 



45 



There was no limit to what he might be. 

The voice kept coming ba.ck again and 
again to the idea of being a king. Per- 
haps the first man to discover how to 
control fire heard this same voice. Per- 
haps it whispered to the inventor who 
iirst learned how to chip flint into a 
knife, how to mold copper into a spear- 
head, how to melt and cast iron. 

It whispered that if he used his dis- 
covery just right, he could become Mr. 
Big, with servants to wait on him and 
women to please him and his will law 
everywhere. All night long, with Sha- 
ler's body lying on the cot and Tom doz- 
ing in the corner, Ralph Kirkendall ar- 
gued with the voice that whispered to 
him. 

With the dawn he knew it had won. 

Haggard-eyed, his face drawn, but 
flushed inside with dreams of what he 
would be, he stepped outside the hut. 
No Oriental potentate ever dreamed 
grander dreams of luxury than Ralph 
Kirkendall at this moment. 

The power of Genghis Khan, of Tam- 



erlane, was his and all men would be his 
servants. 

As he stood there in the door, the 
poisoned spear struck him full in the 
chest. 

Freddie was still on the job. Without 
knowing he had done it Freddie liad cast 
perhaps the most important spear ever 
thrown by any head-hunter. . . . 

In the months that followed the swift 
jungle growth lapped like a green tide 
over the clearing. Within a year it would 
have been hard to find the spot where 
Jerome Shaler had made his experi- 
ments. 

Within two years the jungle had 
taken back its own. 

In the depths of that jungle live two 
savages, one a proud and fearless hunt- 
er, the second a docile obedient slave — 
Freddie and Tom. Perhaps someday an 
outrigger canoe will land there and will 
take them away. Meanwhile Freddie's 
proudest possessions, to which Tom is 
completely indifferent, are two well- 
cured human heads. 



m 



./'!«:?: ^rX 







it 

Follow the adventures of Roy Rogers and Trigger 
in this exciting and action-packed monthly. 
Obtainable at most newsagents and bookstalls. 



mm 



M 




"-._ >:.■-- 



A Capto«i *W«r e JVbrefef &y EDMOND MAMMON 



Citadel of the Futu-remen 



M~~^ ARRAND watched the face of the 
flw Moon grow larger in the forward 
^-^ port of his small cruiser. A white 
and terrible face, he thought. A death's- 
head with meteor - gnawed bones and 
gaping crater-wounds, bleak and cruel 
and very silent, watching him come and 
thinking secret boding thoughts about 
him. A feeling of sickness grew in him. 

"I am a fool and soon I will probably 
be a dead fool," he said to himself. 

He was not a brave man. He was 
very fond of living and he did not think 
of death at all as a thing to be dared and 
laughed at. The knowledge that he was 
likely to die there on the Moon gave him 
qualms of physical anguish that made 
him look as white and hollow as the 
stony face that watched him through 



the port. And yet he did not turn back. 
There was something in Garrand that 
was stronger than iiis fear. His hands 
trembled, but they held the cruiser 
grimly on its course. 

The stark plains and mountain ranges 
took size and shape, the lonely mountains 
of the Moon that looked on nothing and 
the plains where nothing stirred, not 
even the smallest wind or whirl of dust. 
Men had gone out to other worlds and 
other stars. They had ranged far across 
space, founding colonies on asteroids and 
cities on the shores of alien seas. But 
they left the deathly airless Moon alone. 
They had looked at it once and gone 
away. There were only four who made 
the Moon their home- — and not all of 
those four were men. 



46 




In their final adventure 

she Futurem-en are catted on to 

save the Universe itself 

from a madman's destructive whim! 



Tycho Crater widened out below the 
little ship. Licking dry lips metallic with 
the taste of fear, Garrand consulted a 
map, drawn carefully to scale and show- 
ing in that desolation one intricate 
diagram of a man-made structure. There 



wore ominous gaps in that diagram and 
Garrand was painfully aware of them. 
He made his calculations and set his ship 
down well beyond the outer periphery 
of defenses marked on the chart. 

His landing was a clumsy nervous one. 



48 STABTL1NG 

White pumice-dust burst upward around 
the hull and settled slowly back again. 
Garrand cut his jets and- sat for a 
moment looking out across Tycho, all 
ringed around in the distance with cliffs 
and spires and pinnacles of blasted rock 
that glittered in the light. There was 
no sign of the structure indicated on the 
chart. It was all below ground. Even 
its observatory dome was set flush, re- 
flecting the Sun's unsoftened glare no 
more than the surrounding plain. 

ORESENTLY Garrand rose, moving 
- 1 with the stiff reluctance of a man 
going to the gallows. He checked over 
the bulky shapes of a considerable mass 
of equipment. His examination was 
minute and he made one or two readjust- 
ments. Then he struggled into a pressure 
suit and opened the airlock. The air 
went out with a whistling rush and after 
that there was no sound, only the utter 
silence of a world that has heard noth- 
ing since it was made. 

Working in that vacuum Garrand car- 
ried out a light hand-sledge and set it in 
the dust. Then he brought out the bulky 
pieces of equipment and loaded them 
onto it. He was able to do this alone be- 
cause of the weak gravitation and when 
he was through he was able for the same 
reason to tow the sledge behind him. 

He set olf across the crater. The glare 
was intense. Sweat gathered on him and 
ran in slow trickles down his face. He 
suffered in the heavy armor, setting one 
weighted boot before the other, with the 
little puffs of dust rising and falling back 
at every step, hauling the sledge behind 
him. And fear grew steadily in him as 
he went on. 

He knew— all the System knew— that 
the four who lived here were not here 
now, that they were far away on a dis- 
tant troubled world. But their formi- 
dable name and presence seemed to 
haunt this lifeless sphere and he was 
walking now into the teeth of the deadly 
defenses they had left behind them. 

"They can be beaten," he told himself, 
sweating. "I've got to beat them." 



STORIES 

He studied his map again. He knew 
exactly how far he had come from the 
ship. Leaving himself a wide margin of 
safety he activated the detector-mecha- 
nism on the sledge. The helmet of his 
pressure-suit was fitted with ultra-sen- 
sitive hearing devices that had nothing 
to do with sonic waves but translated 
sub-electronic impulses from the detec- 
tor into audible sound-signals. 

He stood still, listening intently. But 
the detector said nothing and he .went 
on, very slowly now and cautiously, 
across the dead waste until his footsteps 
in the dust approached the line of that 
outer circle on the map. Then the detee- 
tor spoke with a faint small clicking. 

Garrand stopped. He bent over the 
panel of the mechanism, .a jumble of 
dials, sorters, frequency-indicators and 
pattern-indicators. Above them a red 
pip burned in a ground-glass field. His 
heart hammered hard and he reached 
hastily for a black oblong bulk beside 
the detector. 

He thought, "I'm still far enough 
away so that the blast won't be lethal if 
this doesn't work." 

The thought was comforting but un- 
convincing. He foi'ced his hand to 
steady, to pick up the four -pronged 
plugs and insert them, one by one in the 
proper order, into the side of the de- 
tector. Then he dropped behind the 
sledge and waited. 

The black obiong hummed. He could 
feel it humming where his shoulder 
touched the metal of the sledge. It was 
designed to pick up its readings from 
the detector, to formulate them, adjust 
itself automatically to the indicated 
pattern and frequency, to broadcast an 
electronic barrier that would blank out 
the impulse-receptivity of the hidden 
trap's sensor-unit. That was its purpose. 
It should work. But if it did not . . . 

He waited, the muscles of his belly 
knotted tight. There was no flash or 
tremor of a blast. After he had counted 
slowly to a hundred he got up again and 
looked. The red pip had faded from the 
ground-glass screen. There was a white 



BIRTHPLACE 

one in place of it. 

Garrand watched that white pip as 
though it were the face of Jus patron 
saint, hauling the sledge on slowly 
through that outer circle and through 
the ones beyond it that were only 
9-uossed at. Three times more the urgent 
didving sounded in his ears and the dints 
and pointers changed — and three times 
the pip faded from red to white and Gar- 
rand was still alive when he reached the 
metal valve door set into the floor of the 

The controls of that door were plainly 
in sight but he did not touch them. In- 



OF CREATION 49 

to the very threshold of this most im- 
pregnable of all places in the Solar Sys- 
tem. 

He did not relax his caution. A large 
mass of equipment went with him down 
the dark stairway, including the scan- 
ner. The valve closed automatically be- 
hind him and below in a small chamber 
he waited until pressure had built up 
and another door automatically opened. 
He found nothing more of menace except 
a system of alarm bells, which he put out 
of commission — not because there was 
anyone to hear them but because he 
knew there would be recorders and he 



they ma 
credible 



--WELL DONE AND FAREWELL 

A FT£R starring in nineteen novels and seven novelets 
r *- of tills current series, Curt Newton and his faithful 
trio of comrades — Simon Wright, die Brain; Otho, the 
android; and Grag, die robot — are taking off on an 
indefinite leave of absence, doubtless for some star 
far from their secret fortress upon the dark side of 
the Moon. 

Their recent return has been an exciting one, a happy 
one for all concerned — but it is time again for them 
to be on their galactic way. If theit fortunes permit 
, in time, be back in the pages of this magazine to tend to their in- 
iff-iirs. So ao not say ^ooJ-bye but farewell. 

—THE EDITOR 




stead he hauled a portable scanner off 
the sledge and used it to examine the 
intimate molecular structure of the 
metal and all its control connections. By 
this means he found the particular bolt- 
head that was a switch and turned it, 
immobilizing a certain device set to 
catch an unknowing intruder as soon as 
he opened the valve. 

Within minutes after that Garrand 
had the door open and was standing at 
the head of a steep flight of steps, going 
down. His h'jart was still Uu.'-d<"lnig away 
and he felt weak in the knees — but he 
was filled with exultation and a great 
pride. Few other men, he thought, per- 
haps none, could have penetrated safety 



wanted no signs, audible or visible, of 
his visit. 

THE recorders themselves were rela- 
tively easy to detect. With an instru- 
ment brought for the purpose he blanked 
off their relay systems and went on 
across the great circular central cham- 
ber with the glassite dome through 
which the sunlight poured. He peered 
with a scientist's fascinated wonder at 
the laboratory apparatus of various 
sorts in that and the smaller chambers 
which opened off it until he came to what 
of all things he was looking for — the 
heavy locked door of a vault, sunk deep 
in the lunar rock. 



50 STARTLING 

Garrand worked for a long time over 
that door. The silence was beginning to 
get to him and the uneasy knowledge 
that he was where he had no right to be. 
He began to listen for the voices and the 
steps of those who might come in and 
find him. 

They were far away and Garrand 
knew that he was safe. 

But he was not a criminal by habit and 
now that the challenge to his skill was 
past he began to feel increasingly guilty 
and unclean. Personal belongings ac- 
cused him, an open book, a pair of boots, 
beds and chests and clothing. If it had 
been merely a laboratory he would not 
have minded so much — but it was also a 
dwelling place and he felt like a common 
thief. 

THAT feeling was forgotten when he 
entered the vault. There were many 
things in that vast lunar cavern, but 
Garrand had no more than a passing 
glance for any of them except the mas- . 
sive file-racks where the recorded data 
which related to voyages were spooled 
and kept. 

Under the clear light that had come 
on of itself with the opening of the 
door Garrand searched the racks, puz- 
zling out the intricate filing system. He 
had taken off his helmet. His hands 
shook visibly and his breathing was 
loud and irregular but these were only 
secondary manifestations. 

Hia mind, faced with a difficult 
problem to solve, slipped by long habit 
into calculating-machine efficiency and 
it was not long before he found what 
he wanted. 

He took the spool in his two hands, 
as tenderly as though it were made of 
the delicate stuff of dreams and apt to 
shatter at a breath. He carried it to 
the large table that stood by the racks 
and fed the end of the tape into a 
reader. His face had grown pale and 
quite rigid except that his mouth 
twitched' a little at the corners. He set 
up his last piece of equipment beside 
the reader, a photosonic recorder used 



STORIES 

to make copies of a master spool, syn- 
chronized them and then closed the 
switches. 

The two spools unwound, one giving, 
the other receiving, and Garrand re- 
mained motionless over the viewer, see- 
ing visions beyond price and listening 
to the voices that spoke of cosmic 
secrets. When the spool was finished 
it was a long time before he moved. 
His eyes were still busy with their vi- 
sions and they were strangely dull and 
shining all at once, shining and far 
away. 

AT last he shook himself and laughed, 
small gasping sound that might 
well have been a sob. He replaced the 
original in the rack and put the second 
spool into a special pouch on his belt. 
In the vault he left everything exactly 
as he had found it and when he came 
out again onto the Mom's surface he 
reset the hidden trigger that guarded 
the outer door. 

As he had penetrated the defences 
on the plain, so he went back- through 
them again, in a double agony lest now, 
when he had the thing he had taken 
such, incredible chances for, he should 
blunder and be killed. The shadows of 
the crater edge were crawling toward 
him, sharp and black. The last pre- 
monitory clicking of the detector, the 
last fading of the warning pip from red 
to white and he was safe, running 
toward the ship into the knife-edged 
darkness of the shadow. 

Long before night came Garrand was 
gone, plunging across the narrow gulf 
to Earth. He did not know how to give 
vent to the wildness of his exultation, 
so he held it in but it burned in his face 
and eyes. 

"Tomorrow," he said aloud to himself, 
over and over. "Tomorrow we'll be on 
our way." He laughed, addressing some- 
one who was not present. "You said I 
couldn't do it, Herrick. You said I 
couldn't !" 

Behind him the darkening face of the 
Moon looked after him. 



Cosmic Secret 



FOUR came home to the Moon after 
many days. Four, of whom only one 
was an ordinary man. 

Curt Newton, the man — Otho, the 
android or artificial man who was hu- 
man in everything but origin — Grag, the 
towering metal man or intelligent robot 
— and Simon Wright, he who had once 
been a man but whose brain only now 
lived on in a strange mechanical body. 

Their ship came down like a thunder- 
bolt of metal from the sky. The camou- 
flaged doors of an underground hangar 
opened silently to receive it and closed 
as silently. 

Into the great circular room beneath 
the observatory dome the four Future- 
men came. Curt Newton paused by the 
wall to activate the recorder panel. It 
showed blank. It always showed blank. 

He sat down slowly, a tall man with 
red hair and a bronzed face that looked 
now very tired. 

"Do you think our work out there will 
stick, Simon?" he asked. 

He addressed the small square metal 
ease hovering on motor-beams before 
him, its strange "face" of lens-eyes 
turned toward him. The serum-case, in 
which Simon Wright's brain lived its 
life. 

"I am confident," said Simon with his 
precise articulation of metallic artificial 
accents, "that there will be no more 
trouble between Uranus Mines and the 
natives." 

Curt frowned and sighed. "I hope so. 
When will they learn how to deal with 
planetary primitives?" 

Grag spoke up loudly. He was stand- 
ing, a seven-foot giant of metal, with his 
head turned and his photoelectric eyes 
Btaring intently across the big room. 

"Curt, someone's been here," his great 
voice boomed. 



BIRTHPLACE OF CREATION 

= = "No. I checked the recorders," New- 

ton said without turning. 

"I don't care," Grag persisted. "That 
chair by the vault door has been moved. 
I was the last one out when we left and 
I remember exactly where it stood. It's 
been moved a good three inches." 

Otho burst into laughter. "listen to 
Old Hawkeye. Three inches!" The an- 
droid, so perfectly human in appearance 
that only something bright and strange 
lurking in his green eyes betrayed an 
inner difference, went on mockingly, 
"Are you sure if s not two and a half 
inches ?" 

Grag began to protest angrily in his 
foghorn voiee. Curt swung around ir- 
ritably to silence them. But Simon 
Wright said gravely, "Wait, Curtis. You 
know that the constitution of Grag : s 
metal brain makes his memory absolute- 
ly photographic. If he says the chair 
has been moved it has been moved." 
"But the recorders?" 
"They could have been blanked, you 
know. It's theoretically possible." 

"Only theoretically—" Curt began 
and then he stopped and swore. "Blast 
you, Grag! Why did you have to raise 
a doubt in my mind? Now I'll have to 
take down the recorders to check them 
and that's the devil and all of a job." 
Irritation riding him, he went out of 
the big room and came back with tools. 
He scowled at Grag. "You'd better be 
right!" 

Simon and Otho heiped him m the 
delicate work of disassembling the re- 
corders. They examined both the micro- 
film and the interior relay circuits bit 
by bit. 

Curt's irritation left him suddenly. He 
looked sharply at the others. He had 
found it — the minute blurred line where 
the film had started to roll and been 
arrested. The relay circuits were a frac- 
tion of a decimal out of synchronization 
now. 

Otho whistled softly. "Blanked!" he 
said. "And so beautifully done — nothing 
fused or blown out, the derangement so 
small that you'd never notice it unless 



52 STARTLING 

you were searching for it." 

"So I was right?" Grag boomed tri- 
umphantly. "I knew I was right. When 
I see a thing that's changed I—" 

"Shut up," Curt Newton told him. He 
looked, puzzled, at Simon. "No criminal 
did this — no ordinary criminal. The job 
of blanking these relays required tre- 
mendous scientific ability." 

Simon brooded, hovering. "That's ob- 
vious. Only an expert in sub-electronics 
would be capable. But that seems mcon-_ 
gruous. Why would a top scientist come 
prowling in here like a common thief?" 

Curt turned. "Grag, will you see if 
anything else has been moved or taken?" 

The metal giant started stalking 
through the rooms. Curt remained silent 
and thoughtful, the frown on his tanned 
face deepening. 

Grag came back. "No. Nothing else 
has been tampered with." 

"Yet it was," Curt said slowly. He 
looked again at Simon. "I've been think- 
ing. An expert in sub-electronics . . . 
Do you remember the nuclear physics 
man down at New York Tech whom we 
met at Government Center a few mouths 
ago?" 

"Garris? Garrand — some name like 
that? I remember. A nice little man." 

"Yes, I thought so too — very eager 
about his work. But I remember now he 
asked me a Question—" 

CURT broke off suddenly. He went 
rapidly across the big room, un- 
locked the vault door and inside the si- 
lent lunar cavern he went straight to the 
files. 

Simon had followed him. And when 
Simon saw the spool that Curt drew 
from the file his lens-eyes turned to 
Cart's face with a startled swiftness. 

"Curtis, no! You don't think- — " 

"It was what he asked me about," 
Curt said. "The Birthplace." 

The word went echoing solemnly back 
and forth around the cold rock walls. 
And Curt stared at Simon, not really 
seeing him, seeing uncanny awesome 
things that lived in memory, and a 



STORIES 

strange look came into his face — a 
strange look indeed for the man Curt 
Newton. A look of fear. 

Simon said, "How could he know of 
the Birthplace?" 

That word had never been spoken to 
anyone. They hardly spoke it even 
among themselves. Such a secret was 
not for the knowledge nor the use of 
men and they had guarded it more care- 
fully than the sum total of all other 
knowledge they possessed. Now the very 
sound of that name brought Grag and 
Otho to the door and wrought a suddeu 
tension that filled the cavern with a 
waiting stillness. 

Curt said heavily, "He connected the 
theoretical possibility with the work we 
did on Mercury. He's a brilliant man, 
Simon — too brilliant." 

"Perhaps," said Grag, "lie only looked 
for the secret and couldn't find it. After 
all, our filing system . . ." 

Curt shook his head. "If he could get 
in here he could find what he wanted." 
He examined the spool. "He could make 
a copy of this and there would be no 
way of telling that it had been done." 

He stood motionless for a moment 
longer and no one spoke. Otho studied 
his face and shot one quick bright glance 
at Simon. Simon moved uneasily on his 
gliding force-beams. 

Curt replaced the spool and turned. 
"We've got to find out about this man. 
We'll go to New York, at once." 

Veiy soon thereafter the Comet rose 
from the dark gap of the hangar-mouth 
and shot away toward the great green 
globe of Earth. 

Not much later, at headquarters of 
the Planet Police in New York, old Mar- 
shal Ezra Gurney stared at Curt Newton 
in blank amazement. 

"Garrand?" he said. "But he's a rep- 
utable man, a scientist !" 

"Nevertheless," said Curt grimly, "1 
want all the information vou can get and 
fast." 

Simon spoke. "This is urgent, Ezra. 
We cannot afford delay." 

The grizzled old spaceman glanced 



BIRTHPLACE OF CREATION 



53 



from one to the other, and then to Otho. 
"Something really bad, eh? All right, 
I'll do what I can." 

He went out of the office. Otho leaned 
against the wall and remained motion- 
less, watching Curt. Simon hovered near 
the desk. Neither one of them was 
afflicted with nerves. Curt moved rest- 
lessly about, brooding, his hands touch- 
ing things arc.; putting them down again 
in wire-taut gestures. The intricate 
multichron on the wall whirred softly 
and the minutes slid away, on Earth, on 
Mars, on the far-flung worlds of the Sys- 
tem. No one spoke and Ezra did not 
come back. 

Simon said at last, "It would take 
time, even for Ezra." 

"Time!" said Curt. "If Garrand has 
the secret we have no time." 

He paced the small neat room, a man 
oppressed with heavy thoughts. The 
sound of the door opening brought him 
whirling around to face Ezra almost as 
though he were facing his executioner. 
"Well?" 

"Garrand took off from Earth on the 
twenty-first," said Ezra. "He flew a ship 
of his own, apparently an experimental 
model on which he has been working for 
some time in company with a man 
named Herrick, who is also listed as 
chief pilot. Destination, none. Purpose, 
cosmic ray research beyond the System. 
Because of Garrand's reputation and 
standing there was no difficulty about 
the clearance. That was all I could get." 
"That's enough," said Curt. "More 
than enough." His face was bleak and 
the color had gone out of it under the 
tan. He looked very tired and in a way 
so strange that Ezra came up to him and 
demanded, "What is it, Curt? What did 
Garrand take from the laboratory?" 

Curt answered, "He took the secret of 
the Birthplace of Matter." 

Ezra stared, uncomprehending. "Is 
that a secret you can tell me?" 

CURT said hopelessly, "I can tell you 
now. For it's known now to Garrand 
and this»other man." 



"What is it, then?" 
"Ezra, it is the secret of creation." 
There was a long silence. It was ob- 
vious from Gurney's face that the term 
was too large for him to understand. 
Yet Curt Newton did not continue as yet. 
He looked beyond them and his face was 
drawn and haggard. 

"We'll have to go back there," he said, 
his voice low. "We'll have to. And I 
hoped never to go back." 

Simon's expressionless eyes were fixed 
on him. Otho said loudly, "What's there 
to be afraid of? We ran the whirls be- 
fore. And as for Garrand and the other 
one — " 

"I am not afraid of them," Curt New- 
ton said. 

"I know," said Simon. "I was the only 
one who was with you in the shrine of 
the Watchers there. I know what you 
are afraid of — yourself." 

"I still don't get it," Ezra said. "The 
secret of creation? Creation of what?" 

"Of the universe, Ezra. Of all the 
matter in the universe." 

A strange wonder came on Gurney's 
time-worn face. He said nothing. He 
waited. 

"You remember," Cart told him, 
"when we came back from our first deep- 
space voyage? You remember that right 
after that we designed the electron-as- 
sembly plants that they've used ever 
since to replenish Mercury's thinning 
atmosphere? Where do you think we got 
the knowledge to do that, to juggle elec- 
trons into desired types of matter on a 
big scale?" 

Gurney's voice was a whisper now. 
"You got that knowledge out in deep 
space?" 

"In deep, deep space, Ezra. Near the 
center of our galaxy, amid the thick 
star-clusters and nebulae beyond Sagit- 
tarius. There lies the beating heart of 
our universe." 

Pie made a gesture. "Back in the 
Twentieth Century the scientist Millikaa 
first guessed the truth. The matter of 
the universe constantly melts away into 
radiation. Millikan believed that some- 



54' STARTLING 

where m the universe was a place where 
radiation was somehow built back into 
matter and that the so-called cosmic rays 
were the 'birth-cry' of the newborn 
matter. The fount of our material uni- 
verse, the birthplace of material crea- 
tion." 

Awe was in Ezra's faded old eyes. 
"And you found that? And never told 
—never let anyone guess — " 

"Garrand guessed," Curt said bitterly. 
"He connected our work at Mercury 
with our mysterious voyage. He tried to 
learn what I knew and when I would 
tell him nothing he came to the Moon 
and risked death to steal our records. 
And now he's gone to find it for him- 
self." 

Simon Wright said somberly, "He will 
only reap disaster if he tries to take it. 
I saw what almost happened there to 
you. Curtis." 

"It's my fault," Curt said harshly. 
"We should have left no record. But I 
could not quite destroy it." He paused, 
then went on rapidly. "We've got to 
overtake him. What the other man, Her- 
rick, may have in mind we can't tell. 
But Garrand is a fanatical researcher, 
who wil! tamper with the instruments 
of the Watchers as I did. He won't stop 
■where I stopped!" 

Ezra jumped to his feet. "I can have 
cruisers after him in an hour." 

"They couldn't catch him now, Ezra. 
The Comet might. We'll have to make 
certain preparations and they'll take 
time. But even so we may catch him." 

He turned, moving swiftly toward the 
door as tliough physical action were a re- 
lief from overpowering tension. Ezra 
stopped him. "Curt, wait! Let me go 
with you. I should, you know, if it's a 
case of catching a lawbreaker." 

Newton looked at him. "No, Ezra. 
You're only trapped by the lure of this 
thing as I was. As I was . . . No." 

Simon's metallic voice intervened. 
"Let him go with us, Curtis. I think we 
might need him — that you might need 
him." 

A look passed between them. Then, 



STOSIES 
silently. Curt nodded. 

Back to the Moon, with five instead 
of four, went the Comet on wings of 
flame. In the hours that followed, the 
closed hangar-doors in silent Tycho gave 
no hint of the desperate rushed activity 
beneath. 

But less than twenty-four hours after 
its return from Uranus the ship left the 
Moon a second time. It went out through 
the planetary orbits like a flying pris- 
oner breaking out through bars, poised 
for a moment beyond Pluto to shift into 
a new kind of motion, then was gone into 
the outer darkness. 



CHAPTER III 

The Birthplace. 



THE Comet was a fleck, a mote, a 
tiny gleam of man-made light falling 

into infinity. Behind it, lost somewhere 
along the farthest shores of a lightless 
sea, lay Earth and Sol and the outposts 
of familiar stars. Ahead was the great 
wilderness of Sagittarius, the teeming 
star-jungle that to the eye seemed 
crowded thick with burning Suns and 
nebulae. 

The five within the ship were silent. 
Four were busy with the memories they 
had of the time they had come this way 
before, with the knowledge of what was 
still to be encountered. One, Ezra Gur- 
ney, could find no words to speak. He 
was a veteran spaceman. He had been 
a veteran when Curt Newton was born. 
He knew the Solar System from Pluto 
to Mercury and back again and he knew 
how the naked undimmed stars could 
shine. 

But this was different—this voyaging 
of deepest space, this pursuing of the 
fleets and navies of the stars to their 
own harbor, this going in among them. 
In a way Ezra Gurney was afraid. No 
man, not even Curt Newton, could look 
at that Naming' sky ahead and not be a 



BIRTHPLACE OF CREATION 



55 



little afraid. 

The Cornet had come into the region 
of the great clusters. Mighty hives of 
gathered Suns biased and swarmed, roll- 
ing across space and time, carrying after 
them sweeping trains of scattered stars. 
Between and beyond the clusters and 
their trailing star-streams shone the 
glowing clouds of nebulae, banners of 
light flung out for a million miles 
across the firmament, ablaze with the 
glow of drowned and captured Suns. 
And beyond them all — the nebulae, the 
clusters and the stars — there showed 
the black brooding lightless immensity 
of a cloud of cosmic dust. 

The soul of Ezra Gurney shook with- 
in him. Men had no business here in 
this battleground of angry gods. Men? 
But was he here with men? 

"One-point -foul' degrees zenith," came 
the metallic voice of Simon Wright from 
where he hovered above a bulky instru- 
ment. 

"Check," Curt Newton said and moved 
controls slightly. Then he asked, 
"Dust?" 

"Definitely higher than average inter- 
stellar density now," Otho reported, 
from his own place at the wide instru- 
ment panel. "It'll thicken fast as we ap- 
proach the main cloud." 

Ezra looked at them— at the square, 
hovering metal case of the living brain, 
at the lithe eager android peering for- 
ward into the abyss with burning green 
eyes, at the giant imperturbable metal 
hulk of the robot. 

Not men, no! He was out here in the 
great deeps, rushing toward the 
mightiest secret of infinity, with crea- 
tures unhuman, with — ■ 

Curt turned, and smiled briefly and 
wearily at him. And the clamoring panic 
in Ezra was suddenly gone. Why, these 
were his oldest staunchest friends, un- 
shakably loyal and true. 

He drew a long breath. "I don't mind 

telling you that it's nearly got me down." 

"You've got worse coming," Curt said 

uncomfortingly. "We'll hit the main 

cloud soon." 



"The cloud?" 

"The great cloud of cosmic dust that 
surrounds the Birthplace. That dust is 
born from the Birthplace— and flows out 
in mighty tides through our whole uni- 
verse." 

"To be born into new worlds?" 
"Yes. Weizsacker fathomed that part 
of the cycle, long ago in the nineteen 
forties when he formulated his theory 
of the gathering of the cosmic dust into 
new planets." 

Before them now rose a wall of Suns, 
glaring like cyclopean furnaces as the 
Comet seemingly crawled toward them. 
Almost it seemed that they could hear 
the clang and thunder of cosmic forges 
as their tiny craft approached and went 
between the flaming giants. 

White and wild flared a far-flung 
nebula to the left beyond that rampart 
of stars. But ahead there gloomed far- 
ther still the blaek c'.oud that now 
seemed eating up the universe with jaws 
of darkness as they stoadily approached 
it. 

"No sign of any other ship outside the 
cloud," Otho reported coolly. "Our de- 
tectors won't range inside it, of course." 

"They had too big a start," Curt said 
broodingly. "Too many days. Garrand 
and the other must already have been on 
the world of the Watchers for some 
time." 

"Unless the whirls wrecked them," 
Otho suggested. 

"Wishful thinking," Curt said. "We 
ran the whirls and so could they." 

Simon said, "Curtis, you will not go 
into the shrine of the Watchers again?" 

Curt Newton did not look at him. "I'll 
have to if that's where Garrand is." 

"You don't have to, Curtis. We three 
could go." 

NOW, Curt looked at Simon, his tanned 
face set and unreadable. "You don't 
trust me with the power of the 
Watchers?" 

"You know what that power almost 

did to you before. It is for you to say." 

Curt looked ahead and said doggedly, 



56 STARTLING 

"1 am not afraid and I will go in there 
after him." 

Ezra Gurney, puzzled by the tension 
between them, asked, "Who are the 
Watchers?" 

"They have been dead for ages," Curt 
said slowly. "But long ago they pene- 
trated the Birthplace and conquered its 
secret and set up instruments to wield 
its powers. It's why we have corne. Gar- 
rand must not use those instruments." 
"Nobody must use them," said Simon. 
Curt said nothing to that. 
Gurney, looking ahead, saw the black 
cloud widening out across the starry uni- 
verse like a great tide of doom, steadily 
blotting out the Stars. A fitting cosmic 
shroud for the greatest of cosmic se- 
crets, he thought. Its fringes engulfed 
bright stars that shone wanly through 
the dimness like dying eyes. 

"This dust," said Simon, "is newborn 
matter, spawned by the Birthplace and 
pumped outward by pressure of radia- 
tion to flow out to the whole universe." 
"And the— the secret itself — is in- 
side?" 
"Yes." 

There was no moment when the Comet 
plunged suddenly within the cloud. 
Rather the dust thickened steadily until 
all about the flying ship was a deepen- 
ing haze, deepest and darkest ahead but 
drawing more and more veils behind 
them so that the stars back' there shone 
like smothered witch-Ares. 

The ship began to tremble as it en- 
countered flowing spatial currents of 
denser dust. Struts and girders pro- 
tested with slight creakings and then 
more loudly. They strapped into the re- 
coil-chairs at Curt's orders. 

"Here it comes," said Grag in loud 
complaint. "I remember last time al- 
most every bone in my body was 
broken." 

Otho laughed. He started a caustic 
retort but had no time to voice it. 

To Gurney the Comet seemed suddenly 
to have crashed. The tell-tales on the 
panel went crazy and the recoil-chairs 
screamed in outrage as the ship was 



STORIES 

batted through the haze by unseen giant 
hands. 

There was nothing they could do but 
hang on. There was nothing even for 
Curt to do. The automatic pilot and 
stabilizers had to do it all now or they 
were finished. 

The mechanisms functioned 
staunchly. Again and again they 
snatched the buffeted little ship out of 
raging eddies of dust-currents and 
hurled it forward again. Now the whole 
hull was creaking and groaning from 
constantly changing stresses and the 
hiss of dust against its plates became a 
rising and falling roar. 

Ezra Gurney felt a quaking dread. He 
had already seen too much, had come too 
far. Now he felt that a universe become 
sentient and hostile was wrathfully re- 
pelling them from its hidden heart, from 
its supreme secret. 

The Comet fought forward, relent- 
lessly impelled by its own mechanical 
brains, until the dust began to thin. 
It tore onward, still buffeted by swirling 
currents and drenched by radiation. And 
now, ahead, Ezra saw a vast hazy space 
inside the denser blackness of the cloud. 
And far away in this inner space, loom- 
ing in vague gigantic splendor . . . 

"Good God!" said Ezra Gurney and it 
was a prayer. "Then that— that . . ." 
Curt Newton's eyes were alight with 
a strange glow. "Yes — the Birthplace." 
The hazy space within the denser 
cloud was vast. And at its center bulked 
and gleamed and shifted an enigmatic 
glory — a colossal spinning spiral of 
white radiance. Its whirling arms 
spanned millions of miles and it uttered 
cosmic lightnings of radiation that 
lanced out through the haze. 

Beating heart of the universe, fiery 
womb that spawned the stuff of worlds, 
awesome epicenter of cosmos! Cloaked 
and shrouded by the dense black cloud 
of its own making, safe behind its ram- 
parts of terrible whirlpools and the wild 
tide-runs of untamed matter fresh from 
creation, it flamed across its millions of 
miles of space, shaped like a spiral 



BIRTHPLACE OF CREATION 



57 



nebula, spinning, whirling, sending 
forth its seed to the farthest corners of 
the galaxy. 

And to Ezra Gurney, cowering in Ins 
seat and staring at that far-off misty 
glory, it seemed that the eyes of men 
were not meant to see nor their minds 
to comprehend this shining Birthplace. 
"Surely," he whispered, "surely we're 
not going into that!" 

Curt Newton nodded. He had still 
that strange look in his eyes, a look al- 
most mystic, as though he could see be- 
yond the wonder and the glory of the 
Birthplace to its innermost secret heart 
and glimpse there the hidden laws by 
which it worked and carried out its 
destiny. 

"Yes," said Curt, "we're going in." He 
leaned forward over the controls, his 
face bathed in the misty radiance so that 
it seemed not his familiar face at all 
but the countenance of a being half god- 
like with the strange light flickering in 
his eyes. 

"You see how it is, Ezra?" he asked. 
"How it spins like a great centrifuge, 
sucking in the spent energy of Suns and 
whirling it in currents of incalculable 
strength until, in some utterly undream- 
able way, the energy coagulates into 
electrons and protons which are thrown 
off in never-ending streams from the 
rim of the vortex. 

"They form the shining haze that 
fills this hollow around the Birthplace. 
Then, farther out, they unite to form 
the atoms of cosmic dust. The pressure 
of radiation forces them on across the 
galaxy. And out of them new worlds are 
made." 

Ezra Gurney shivered. He did not 
speak. 

"Curtis!" Simon's voice was loud 
with a kind of warning and Curt New- 
ton started, leaning back in his seat and 
turning again to the controls of the 
Comet. His face had tightened and his 
eyes were veiled. 



ND the ship sped on across that vast 
hollow in the heart of the dark 



a: 



cloud. And swift as its flight was it 
seemed only to creep slowly, slowly, to- 
ward the misty wheel of radiance. Pale 
witch-fires danced along its hull, grow- 
ing brighter until the metal was en- 
wrapped in veils of flame, tenuous, cold 
and having about them an eerie quality 
of life. The Comet was double-shielded 
against the radiation but even so Ezra 
Gurney could feel the echoes of that 
terrible force in his own flesh. 

The flaming arms of the Birthplace 
reached wider and wider across space. 
The radiance deepened, became a super- 
nal brilliance that seared the flinching 
eyeballs. The ship began to be shaken 
now and again by subtle tremors as the 
farthest edges of out-thrown currents 
touched it and passed by. 

Ezra shut his teeth hard to keep from 
screaming. • He had been driven once too 
close to the Sun and he had looked hard 
into the depths of the atomic furnace 
that was about to swallow him. He had 
not then known one tenth of the fear 
that he knew now. 

Slitting his eyes against the glare he 
could make out the central sphere fro:n 
which the spiral arms curved out, a 
gigantic vortex of flaming force, the 
wheel-hub of the galaxy. The Comet 
was plunging straight toward it and 
there was nothing he couid do to stop 
it, nothing . . . 

Curt sent the ship driving in between 
two of the sweeping arms. Tidal-waves, 
torrents of energy picked them up and 
flung them, a leaf in the cosmic mill- 
race, toward the grip of a curving arm 
that burned and seethed with all the ulti- 
mate fires of hell. And Curt fought the 
controls and tore away again, heading 
in, heading in . . . 

The central sphere of force loomed up 
like a wall of flame higher than all the 
skies of space, and then they were in it. 

It was as though a million Suns had 
exploded. The force and fire took the 
Comet and whirled it tumbling away 
through a blind and terrible violence. 
Ezra sagged half-conscious in his seat 
and he thought that he had come a long, 



58 STARTLING 

hung way to die. No ship, no body, could 
live for long in this. 

The forces of the cosmic centrifuge 
would tear their substance, powder it to 
atoms and then still down into the fine 
raw stuff of atoms, send it out to join 
with the black dust, to begin the time- 
Jess pilgrimage across the empty spaces, 
to be built at last into the foundations 
of some new world to circle an alien Sun. 
Human, robot and android, they would 
all be one in the end. 

The Comet crashed suddenly clear of 
that hellish tempest of light and force 
into quiet space. Into a space enclosed 
by the spinning centra) sphere of the 
Birthplace itself, a calm at the very 
center of cosmic storm. 

Dazzled, half-stunned, Ezra heard 
Simon saying, "In here at the center is 
only one world — the world of the 
Watchers, where — " 

Curt Newton, leaning forward, in- 
terrupted with a strange low cry. 

"Simon, look! Look! There are other 
worlds here now — worlds and Suns and 
— " His voice seemed strangled by a 
surprise and terror too great for utter- 
ance. 

Ezra strained desperately to regain 
use of his dazzled eyes. As they began to 
clear he too peered tautly forward. At 
first what he saw did not seem so terrify- 
ing. Here, in the wide calm space at the 
heart of the Birthplace, there Was a 
cluster of Suns and planets. 

Ruby Suns, flaring like new blood, 
green and white and somber smoky-gold 
Suns! Planets and moons that circled 
the changing Suns in sweeping trains, 
themselves ever changing! Comets that 
shot in living light between the worlds, 
meteor swarms rushing and wheeling, 
an astronomical phantasmagoria en- 
closed within this comparatively little 
space ! 

SEE PAGE 23 FOR TITLES 
IN THE LATEST 

AMERICAN THRILLER SERIES 



STORIES 

"You said there were no worlds but 
one here," Ezra began, bewildered. 

"There were none." Curt's face was 
deathly, and something in it struck at 
Ezra's heart. "There were none but 
that little blue world— that alone." 

Ezra glimpsed it at the center of the 
strange, close-packed cluster — a little 
blue planet that was a geometrically per- 
fect sphere. 

"The powers of the Watchers are 
there — the instruments by which they 
could tap the Birthplace itself," Curt 
was. saying hoarsely. "And Garrand has 
been there with those instruments for 
days." 

A comprehension so monstrous that 
his mind recoiled from it came to Ezra 
Gurney. "You mean that Garrand . . ." 

He could not finish, could not say it. 
It was not a thing that could be said in 
any sane universe. 

Curt Newton said it. "Garrand, by 
tapping the Birthplace, has created the 
Suns and worlds and comets and 
meteors of that cluster. He has fallen 
victim to the old allurement, the 
strongest in the universe." 

"As you almost fell victim once!" 
Simon Wright warned. 

"Can a man make worlds?" Ezra felt 
shaken and sick inside. "Curt, no — this 
thing — " 

"One who can harness the Birthplace 
can create at will!" Curt exclaimed. 
"And the instruments of the Watchers 
do harness it!" 

A kind of madness had come over him. 
Under his hands the Comet leaped for- 
ward at terrible speed. Ezra heard him 
talking, whether to the others or him- 
self he never knew. 

"There is a balance of forces — always 
a balance ! It cannot be tampered with 
too much. The Watchers left a warning, 
a plain and dreadful warning." - 

The ship rushed forward toward the 
distant small blue world, careening 
wildly through the unholy stars and 
worlds and comets whose creation had 
blasphemed against the natural uni- 



BIRTHPLACE 



CHAPTER IV 
Power of the W dickers 



THE blue world shimmered in the 
light of the monstrous aurora, a per- 
fect jewel, with no height of mountain 
nor roughness of natural growth to mar 
its symmetry. Its surface showed a gloss 
that made Ezra think of porcelain or the 
deep gleam of polished lapis. 

"The Watchers made it long ago," said 
Curt. "They made it out of the forces 
of the Birthplace and it was their out- 
post in this universe, where they studied 
the secrets of creation. There exists a 
city . . ." 

The Comet sped low across the curv- 
ing plain. For a time there was nothing 
but the blank expanse of blue — what was 
it, glass or rock or jewel-stone or some 
substance new in the universe? Above 
them the little suns with their planets 
wheeled and shone, laced about with the 
fire of comets, and above those again 
was the golden sky of the Birthplace. 
Cart's face, bent forward toward the 
blue horizon, was intense and pale and 
somehow alien. 

"There it is!" cried Otho, and Curt 
nodded. Ahead there were the tips of 
slender spires flashing- in the light and a 
gleam and glow of faceted surfaces that 
made a web of radiance like the aura 
sometimes seen in dreams.. The spires 
lifted into graceful height, shaped them- 
selves into the form of a city. 

Walls of the same translucent blue en- 
closed the towers and in the center, ris- 
ing high above them all, there was a 
citadel, a cathedral-form as massive and 
as delicate as the castles that sometimes 
stand upon the tops of clouds on Earth. 
And it was dead, the blue and graceful 
city. The walls, the streets, the flying 
arches that spanned the upper levels of 
the towers, all were silent and deserted. 

"Garrand's ship," said Curt and Ezra 
saw it on the plain before the city, an 



OF CREATION 59 

ugly dark intruder on this world that 
had not been made for men. 

Curt set the Comet down beside it. 
There was air on this planet, for the 
Watchers had been oxygen-breathers 
even though they were not human. The 
lock of Garrand's ship stood open but 
there was no life nor movement that 
Curt could see. 

"It seems deserted," he said, "but 
we'd better make sure." 

Ezra roused himself. He went out 
with the others and somehow the mere 
act of moving and the possibility of fac- 
ing a human and comprehensible danger 
was a relief, almost a pleasure. He 
walked beside Curt with Otho beyond 
him. Their boots slipped and rang on 
the glassy surface. Apart from that 
there was no sound. The city brooded 
and was still. 

They went through the open airlock 
into the other ship. There did not seem 
to be anything to fear, but they moved 
with the caution of long habit. Ezra 
found that he was waiting, hoping for 
action, for attack. He needed some es- 
cape valve for the terrors that had 
grown within him during this flight into 
the heart of the universe. But the nar- 
row corridors were empty and nothing 
stirred behind the bulkhead doors. 

Then, in the main cabin, they found a 
man. 

He was sitting on the padded bench 
formed by the tops of the lockers along 
one wall. He did not move when they 
came in except to lift his head and look 
at them. He was a big man, of a breed 
that Ezra Gurney knew very well, hav- 
ing fought them all his life across the 
Solar System. But the hardness had 
gone out of him now. The strong lines 
of his face had sagged and softened and 
his eyes held only hopelessness and fear. 
He had been drinking but he was not 
drunk. 

"You're too late," he said. "Way too 
late." 

Curt went and stood before him. 
"You're Herrick," he said. "Are you 
alonp?" 



60 STARTLING 

"Oh, yes," said Herrick. "I'm alone. 
There were Sperry and Forbin but 
they're dead now." Herrick had not 
shaved for some time. The black stubble 
on his jaw was necked with white. He 
ran his hand across it and his fingers 
trembled. "I wouldn't be here now," he 
said, "but I couldn't run the whirls alone. 
I couldn't take this ship clear back to 
Earth alone. I couldn't do anything but 
sit and wait." 

Curt said, "Where's Garrand?" 
Herrick laughed. It was not pleasant 
laughter. "You know where he is. Go in 
and get him. Make him come out. That's 
how Sperry and Forbin died, trying to 
make him. I don't know why I'm alive 
myself. I don't know if I want to be 
alive after what I've seen." 

HE GOT up. It was hard for him to 
rise, hard to stand. It was as though 
fear had eaten the bones away inside 
him, dissolved the strength from his 
muscles, leaving him only a hulk, a re- 
ceptacle for terror. His eyes burned at 
them. 

"You know me," he said. "You know 
my kind. You can guess why I came 
with Garrand to get the secret of the 
Birthplace, what I was going to do with 
it afterward. I didn't figure Garrand 
would get in my way. I needed his 
brains, all right, but there would come 
a time when I wouldn't need them any- 
more." He made a gesture, as of brush- 
ing away an insect with his hand. "As 
easy as that." He began to laugh again 
and it was more weeping than laughter. 
"Stop it!" said Curt and Herrick 
stopped quite obediently. He looked at 
Curt as though a thought had just come 
to him, creeping through the fear-webs 
that shrouded his brain. 

•'You can get me out of here," he said. 
There was no threat in his voice, only 
pleading, the voice of a man caught in 
quicksand and crying for release. "It's 
no use going after Garrand. He'll die 
in there anyway. He won't eat or sleep, 
he's gone beyond those things, but what- 
ever he thinks he is he's human and he'll 



STORIES 

die. Just go ! Take me aboard your ship 
and go!" 

"No," said Curt. 

Herrick sat down again on the bench. 
"No," he whispered. "You wouldn't. 
You're as mad as he is." 
Simon said, "Curtis . . ." 
He had remained in the shadowy back- 
ground, listening, but now he came for- 
ward and spoke and Curt turned on him. 
"No !" he said again. "I can't go away 
and leave a madman there to play with 
the forces of the Birthplace till he dies !" 
Simon was silent for a time and then 
he said slowly, "There is truth in what 
you say but only part of it. And I am 
sorry, Curtis — for I am no more proof 
against this madness than you. Even 
less, perhaps, than you. 

"I shall stay out here with Grag to • 
guard the ships and Herrick." His lens- 
like eyes turned upon Ezra Gurney. "I 
think that you, of all of us, will resist 
the lure most strongly. You are like 
Herrick, a man of your hands — and Her- 
rick, who came to steal the secret, felt 
only terror when he found it." 

He said no more but Ezra knew what 
he meant. Simon was giving Curt New- 
ton into his hands to save him from 
some destruction which Ezra did not 
understand. There was a coldness 
around Ezra's heart and a sickness in 
his belly and in his mind a great wish 
that he had never left Earth. 

Curt said to Herrick, "Go to my ship 
and wait. When we leave you'll go with 
us." 

Herrick shook his head. His eyes lifted 
slowly to Curt Newton's and dropped, 
again. He said, "You'll never leave." 

Ezra left the ship with Curt and Otlio 
and he was sorry that Herrick had said 
those last three words. 

They walked again across the ringing 
glassy plain, this time toward the city 
wall and the tall gateway that was in it. 
The leaves of the portal stood open and 
there was a look about them as though 
they had not been touched or closed for 
more ages than Ezra could think about. 
He and Otho passed through them, fol- 



BIRTHPLACE 

lowing Curt. Beyond, at a little distance, 
were two dark statues facing each other 
across the way. Ezra looked at them 
and caught his breath m sharply. 

"The Watchers?" he whispered. 
"Were they like that? But what were 
they then?" 

Otho said. "They came from another 
universe. Simon thought they must have 
been liquescent from the formless struc- 
ture of their bodies." 

Out of each amorphous figure stared 
two round yellow eyes, full of light from 
the glowing sky and uncannily lifelike. 
Ezra shuddered and hurried by, glanc- 
ing as he did so at the strangely in- 
scribed letters upon the bases of the 
statues. He assumed that that was the 
warning Curt had referred to and he 
did not want to enquire too closely into 
it. 

"Go quietly," Curt said. "Two men 
have already died here. We want to get 
as close to Garrand as we can before he 
knows we're here." 

"Where is he?" demanded Ezra for 
the city was utterly dead and still. Curt 
pointed to the citadel. 

"In there." 

They made their way as silently as 
they could along the blue translucent 
street. High above them the slender 
spires made soft bell-notes where the 
wind touched them and the crystal spans 
thrummed like muted harps. And the 
shimmering castle loomed close before 
them and the strange stars sparkled in 
the golden sky. Ezra Gurney was afraid. 

There was a portal, tall and simply 
made, with an unknown symbol cut 
above it. They passed it, treading softly, 
and stood within a vast cathedral vault 
that soared upward until the tops of the 
walls were lost in a golden haze and 
Ezra realized that it was open to the sky. 

The floor was of the same blue sub- 
stance as the city and in the center of it, 
under the open vault, was a massive 
oblong block almost like a gigantic altar 
except that its top was set with hundreds 
of little, shining kegs. Beside this 
block stood Garrand. He was not look- 



OF CREATION 61 

ing at it nor at the two men and the 
android who had entered. He was look- 
ing upward into that distant sky and 
through the opening Ezra could see the 
glittering of stars. Garrand was smil- 
ing. 

Curt Newton walked out across the 
floor. 

"Don't came any closer," said Garrand 
mildly. "Just where you are— that's 
close enough." 

Curt stopped. Otho had begun to edge 
away along the curve of the wall very 
slowly, like a drifting shadow. Ezra 
stood a little behind Curt and to one 
side. 

f^ARRAND turned toward them and 
Vxfor the first time Ezra saw his face 
quite clearly. Unshaven and deathly 
white, its cheeks and temples sunken 
with hunger and exhaustion, its eyes 
dark and burning, there was a beauty 
about it that had never been there be- 
fore, something sublime and glorious 
and calm, as a sea is calm or a frozen 
river, with the potentials of destruction 
sleeping in it. And Ezra understood the 
danger that Simon had spoken of in re- 
gard to Curt. He understood now what 
the power that was here could do to a 
man. 

"So, after all, you followed me," Gar- 
rand said. "Well, it doesn't matter now." 
He stepped behind the block that was 
like an altar, so that it was between him 
and Curt. 

Curt said quietly, "You must leave 
here, Garrand. You'll have to leave some 
time, you know. You're only human." 

"Ami?" Garrand laughed. His hand 
lightly caressed the bank of little shining 
keys. "Ami"! I was once. I was a little 
physicist who thought adding to scientif- 
ic knowledge supremely important and 
I stole and risked my life to come here 
for more knowledge." His eyes lit up. 
"I came searching for a scientific secret 
and I found the source of godhead I" 

"So now, because you've tampered 
with the Watchers' powers and tapped 
the Birthplace, you're a god?" Curt's 



62 STARTLING 

tone was ironic but Ezra could see the 
sweat standing out on his forehead. 

Garrand took no offence. He was 
armored by an egocentric emotion so 
great that he merely smiled wearily and 
said, "You can go now— all of you. I 
dislike chattering. I dislike it so much 
that I will quite willingly call destruction 
in here to engulf you unless you go." 

His fingers had ceased straying, had 
come to rest on certain keys. Ezra Guv- 
uey felt a slow freezing of his flesh. He 
whispered hoarsely, "You'll have to kill 
him, Curt." 

He knew the swiftness with which 
Newton could draw and fire the weapon 
at his belt. But Curt made no move. 

"Can I fire into that bank of con- 
trols?" Curt muttered. "Otho's speed is 
our only chance." 

He flung up his hand, his fingers 
ci'ooked. He said loudly, "Garrand, I 
warn you—" 

His gesture had been both a feint to 
draw attention, a signal. A signal that 
sent Otho lunging toward the oblong 
altar. 

The phenomenal swiftness of the 
android, the reaction speed of nerves 
and muscles that were not human, made 
Otho's movement almost blurring to the 
eye. But Garrand saw and with a low 
cry he pressed the keys. 

To Ezra, in the next moment, the air 
around them seemed suddenly charged 
with power. The golden haze spun about 
him. darkened, thickened, all in a heart- 
beat. He felt the imminent materializa- 
tion of an agency of destruction drawn 
from the great matrix of force about 
them. 

He glimpsed through the thickening 
haze Otho pulling Garrand back from 
the altar. He saw Curt leaping in, his 
face desperate and raising the depressed 
keys. 

And Ezra felt the half -materialized 
shadowy force around him melting back 
into nothingness. "What — " he stam- 
mered, still standing frozen. 

"Death," said Curt. "As to the form 
of it who knows but Garrand? Anyway, 



STOSIES 

it's over now." His voice was unsteady 
and his hands shook on the keys. He 
looked down. Garrand had gone limp 
in Otho's arms-. Ezra thought at first 
that he was dead and then he saw the 
shallow breathing, the faint twitching 
of the mouth. 

"Hunger and exhaustion," said Curt. 
"Strain. He was already at the end of 
his rope. Get him back to the ship, Otho, 
and have Simon take care of him." 

Otho lifted the unconscious man with- 
out effort but he did not yet move away. 
"Aren't you coming, Curt?" 

"Not yet." He glanced upward 
through the opening at the brilliant stars 
that swarmed where no stars ought to 
be. "I can't leave this imbalance- at the 
heart of the Birthplace. The Watchers 
were careful about that. They built their 
one small planet at the exact center of 
stress, where it wouldn't upset anything. 
But those creations of Garrand's— I 
don't dare leave them here, Otho." 

Still Otho did not move and Curt said, 
"Go on, Otho. Garrand needs help." 

SLOWLY and reluctantly the android 
turned and as he did so he looked at 
Ezra, a lock of warning, a pleading look. 
Then he went out, carrying Garrand. 

Curt Newton bent over the keys. "I 
haven't f orgotten," he whispered to him- 
self. "How could anyone ever forget?" 
He touched the gleaming keys, not press- 
ing them, just touching them lightly 
and feeling the power that was in them, 
the unimaginable control of matter. 

Ezra said hoarsely, "What are you 
going to do?" 

Curt looked upward to where the little 
suns swam in the golden haze, the little 
suns that could create havoc in this cos- 
mic womb where only the seed of matter 
belonged. 

"Watch," he said. "I am going to dis- 
solve what Garrand created." 

Ezra watched. Slowly, carefully, Curt 
pressed a certain pattern on the keys 
and around a ruby star waves and band3 
of golden force began to flicker like 
faint auroras. They grew and strength- 



BIRTHPLACE 

ened and became streams of raw elec- 
trons, pouring their substance into the 
Uttle Sun. 

Ezra shielded his eyes, but not soon 
enough. The star had become a nova, 
but without the second, the collapsed 
stage of novas. The fury of electronic 
force launched upon it from outside in 
this universal vortex of such forces had 
swept away each fragment of the ex- 
ploding atoms to return them to the 
parent clpud. 

The ruby star had ceased to exist and 
its worlds had vanished with it. 

Swifter now, more surely, Curt's 
hands flashed across the keys. And Ezra 
Gurney cowered beside the altar, 
blinded, stunned, shaken by the savage 
explosions of far-distant matter, riven 
and burst apart. 

How long he crouched there while the 
great lights flared in the sky and the 
cosmic hammers beat he never knew. 
But there came a time when everything 
was stiil and he looked up and saw Curt 
standing there with his hands motionless 
on the keys and his head strained back 
so that he could search the farthest 
reaches of the sky. 

He spoke and Curt did not answer. 
He touched him and spoke again, and it 
was like speaking to a statue except that 
under his fingers he could feel the 
subtle tremors of Curt's hard flesh, the 
taut quivering. 

"Curt!" he cried out. And Curt very 
slowly lowered his head and looked at 
him with a kind of amazement in his 
eyes, as though he had forgotten Ezra 
Gurney. 

"Is it finished, Curt?" 

"Yes. It's finished." 

"Then come away." 

Newton's gaze, the unfamiliar gaze 
that did not see small things like men 
but looked on larger distances, slipped 
away to the banks of keys and upward to 
the sky again. 

"In a moment," he said. "In just a 
moment." 

Two red bars burned across the bones 
of his cheeks and the rest of his face 



OF CREATION 63 

was like marble. Ezra saw in it the be- 
ginning of the exaltation, the terrible 
beauty that had marked the face of Gar- 
rand. Curt smiled and the sinews of 
his hands moved delicately as he stroked 
his fingers across the keys. 

"The worlds that I could make," he 
whispered. "Garrand was only a little 
man. I could create things he never 
dreamed of." 

"Curt!" cried Ezra in a panic. "Come 
away!" But his voice was swallowed up 
in dreams and Curt whispered very 
softly, "I wouldn't keep them. I would 
dissolve them afterward. But I could 
create . . ." 

His fingers were forming a pattern on 
the keys. Ezra looked down at his 
gnarled old hands and knew that they 
were not strong enough. He looked at 
his gun and knew that he could not use 
it in any way. Searching desperately 
for a way to pierce through the dreams 
he cried, "Could you create another 
Earth?" 

For awhile he was not sure that Curt 
had heard him, not sure but that he was 
beyond hearing. Then a vaguely startled 
look came into Curt's eyes and he said, 
"What?" 

"Could you create another Earth, 
Curt? Could you put the mountains and 
the seas together and build the cities 
and fill them with men and women and 
the voices of children? Could you create 
another Otho or Grag or Simon?" 

Curt slowly looked down at his ringers, 
curved and hungry on the waiting keys, 
and a kind of horror flashed across his 
face. He snatched his hands away and 
spun around, turning his back to the 
altar. He looked sick, and shamed, but 
the dreams were no longer shadowing 
his face, and Ezra began to breathe 
again. 

"Thanks, Ezra," he said hoarsely. 
"Now let's go. Let's go, while I can." 

THE black cloud lay behind them and 
the Comet fled away from it like a 
frightened thing, back through the great 
blazing clusters of Sims that had now 



M STARTLING STORIES 

no terrors for them. Curt Newton sat that the somber shadow on Newton's 

silently at the controls and his face was face deepened as he looked out through 

so brooding that Ezra Gurney did not the wilderness of Suns and nebulae to- 

venture to speak. ward the far, far spark of Sol. 

Ezra looked ahead because he did not "But someday," Curt said slowly, 

want to look back into the main cabin, "someday not too far m the future, 

He knew that what Simon was doing many men will be pushing out through 

there was perfectly harmless and utterly these spaces. They'll find the Birthplace 

necessary but there was something so sooner or later. And then what?" 

uncanny about it that he did not want to Simon said, "We will not be here when 



ote it being done- 
He had looked in once and seen Simon 
hovering over the strange projector 
that Grag and Otho had rigged above 



that happens." 

"But they'll do it. And fffoat will 
happen when they do?" 

Simon had no answer for that nor had 



that Grag and Otho had nggea aoove qibmwi uau ™ <•"■=»- "■" — -« — - — 

the heads of the drugged unconscious Ezra Gurney. And Curt spoke again 
„ __ j j ti .-„i- tj^ i-,ofi nnmo amav Viio vnicp iipsvv with foreboding. 



Garrand and Herrick. He had come away 
from there quickly. 

He sat unspeaking beside Curt, watch- 
ing the great clusters wheel slowly past 
them until at last Simon Wright came 
gliding into the control-room. 

"It is done," said Simon. "Garrand 



his voice heavy with foreboding. 

"I have sometimes thought that life, 
human life, intelligent life, is merely a 
deadly agent by which a stellar system 
achieves its own doom in a cosmic cycle 
far vaster and stranger than anyone 
has dreamed. For see— stars and planets 



"It is done, said Simon, uarrana nas oreameu. rui ^=- o«^o««™ v , — --- 
and Herrick will not wake for many are born from primal nothingness and 

..t! .__ j.i J„ -n.„„ ,™->-.'+ ™mom. +V,oi7 r-nn\ nnrl the pool me WOl'hls SpR" " 



hours. When they do they won't remem 
ber." 

Curt looked at him. "You're sure that 
you expunged every memory of the 
Birthplace?" 

"Absolutely sure. I used the scanner 
to block every memory-path on that sub- 
ject—and checked by questioning them 



they cool and the cooling worlds spawn 
life and life grows to ever higher levels 
of intelligence and power until ..." 

There was an ironical twist to Curt's 
lips as he paused and then went on ". . . 
until the life of that world becomes in- 
telligent enough to tap the energies of 
the cosmos! When that happens is it 



tat—and checked by questioning mem me own* "'r ' "T", „C n li 

"hypnotically. They know nothing of the inevitable that fallible mortals should 



Birthplace. You'll have to have a story 
ready for them." 

Curt nodded. "We picked them up out 
here in deep space when their ship 
cracked up in cosmic ray research. That 
fits the circumstances— they'll never 
doubt it." 

Ezra shivered a little. Even now the 
blocking of part of a man's memories; 



use those energies so disastrously that 
they finally destroy their own worlds 
and stars? Are life and intelligence 
merely a lethal seed planted in each uni- 
verse, a seed that must inevitably de- 
stroy that universe?" 

Simon said slowly, "That is a terrible 
thought, Curtis. But I deny its inevita- 
bility. Long ago the Watchers found 



blocking of part o± a man's memories, ouny. ^■■b «*« ^ „- r ™~- r~l 
the taking away forever of a bit of his the Birthplace^ yet they did not try to 
experience, seemed an eerie thing to do. use its powers.' 



Curt Newton saw his shiver and un 
derstood it. He said, "It doesn't harm 
them, Ezra— and it's necessary." 

"Very necessary, if the secret of the 
Birthplace is not to get out again," said 
Simon. 

There was a little silence among them 
and the ship crawled on and on through 
the cosmic glare and gloom. Ezra saw 



"We are not like the Watchers, we 
men," Curt said bitterly. "You saw what 
it did to Garrand and to me." 

"I know," said Simon. "But perhaps 
men will be as wise as the Watchers 
were by the time they find the Birth- 
place. Perhaps they too will then be 
powerful enough to -renounce power. We 
can only hope." 






Hows Your Voltage? 

■ NEW FINDINQS POINT TO THE 
ELECTRICAL BASIS OF LIFE 




WgOBOTS come and go is science fiction, 
MM/ but we have yet to sec a story in which a 
human being drove into a service station and 
had himself recharged electrically. Yet that day 
may not be as tar ofT a; you think. Every 
restaurant may have a rccharger to give its 
patrons an ampere liit as well as a meal. 

The 'theory that all life 'ias an electrical basis 
has been with us for awhile. But it has been 
somewhat vaguely expressed and limited to cer- 
tain demonstrable forms, such as measuring 

New experiments indicate, however, that it 
goes much further than that, and evidence is 
being piled up in laboratories M over the 
country. At Yale, Dr. Harold S. Burr has 
measured the electrical potential of a kernel of 
corn, the resulting reading on a galvanometer 
giving a ruULfh prediction of thi' seed's sin'ouring 
ability and its full size at maturity. | 

At Pennsylvania State College, a group of 
researchers, working with the Army Signal 
Corps, demonstrated that magnets foul up a 
pigeon's "homing instinct"' completely. 

Similar nwji'ticlu-. fields set up in the rivers of 
British Columbia by the Canadian govern met it 
were found to affect sharply the homing "in- 
stinct" of salmon. And electrical devices are 
known to attract fish and eels of many kinds. 

Back at Yale, Dr. Miles and Dr. Bed; of the 
Psychology Department have been trying to 
track down] the mechanism of man's sense of 
smell "and again have come up indications of 
electricity. 

Man's (and presumably animals') ability to 
detect odors, they believe, is actually a "broad- 
cast" by the nose of infra-red rays, with wave 
lengths running from 7.5 to 14 microns. Once 
the correct wave length for each odor is es- 
tablished, it will be the easiest thing in the world 
to broadcast any scent desired and the perfume 
industry will move into new fields.' 



Moving pictures and television broadcasts 
which will combine three- dimensional images 
with color and controlled scents will achieve an 
illusion of reality little short of life itself. Nor 
is olfactory stimulation the least important of 
these. The peculiar attribute of scent is that it 
brings back memories more effectively than 
almost any other type of stimulus. Thus cinema 
or television plays spiked with correct odors 
will make a sharper effect initially, remain in 
the memory longer and be more easily recalled 
than ever before. 

Charles Kettering, General Motors' inventive 
genius, has been after the secret of photosyn- 
thesis for years, and many of his research teams 
have discovered some of the sun's secrets. They 
have made pure butter in the test tube, without 
the help of milk or cow in any way, utilizing sun 
power. And they believe that another ten years 
may see the whole fabulous secret revealed, of 
how chlorophyll turns the electrical energy of 
the sun into food. With that, man's fear that he 
will outgrow the food supplies of the planet are 
ended. 

Even the search for a cancer cure has brushed 
against the electrical theory of life. Measure- 
ment of nerve field.-, has demonstrated that there 
is a considerable rise in voltage weeks before 
any other symptom of cancer appears. This has 
produced not only a cancer test, but a new and 
profitable area of research towards a cure. 

These are tangible, material results. There 
are other lines of research, such as Dr. Rhine's 
experiments in ESI' at Duke, which add to the 
general picture. Out of all these individual bits 
of research, going on independently in colleges, 
laboratories, even in basements and attics all 
over the country, will some day emerge the 
answer to the last and most baffling question of 



all— 



-hat i 



-The Ediii 



© SCIENCE brings ¥®U a New Lease of Life! 

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